Kodak Alaris has declined to provide any responses to questions from retailers following the article it contributed in early July – ‘Kodak’s support for supporting retailers’.
Observations from long-term Kodak customers were that the Kodak Alaris article was light on detail and that some of the claims made – for instance that Kodak Alaris had a ‘commitment to keep silver-halide at the forefront of photographic printing’ seemed to contradict what the company was doing in the marketplace.
One reader wrote: ‘I’m pretty disgusted with what Kodak and Fuji put in the Photo Counter article – it was nothing more than corporate claptrap.’
And from retailer Garrett Rooney in Tamworth: ‘That generic tish-tosh that Kodak gave as a reply to Keith was like someone with their feet on the desk pulling various vacuous attributable paragraphs together in a press release, they may yet have a career in Australian politics as it said nothing and claimed, irony of ironies, to be the defender of the last bastion of quality images (silver- halide).’
Stephen Feldon, convener of the PSS group of (mostly) Kodak-supporting stores in New Zealand wrote: ‘If only Kodak walk the walk as well as they talk the talk. I’m willing to be proven wrong here but in my not too distant past as a KEX store owner I saw the same. Lots of talk not a lot of walk. Yes I realise that resources are tight across the industry, but if you’re going to announce a product or strategy to industry make sure you can back it up.’
Another reader sent in a Powerpoint presentation to underscore how much was promised to the photo specialty channel by Kodak Alaris – and how little delivered.
Perhaps most indicative that there is something missing in the Kodak Alaris approach in Australia and New Zealand were comments from ex-Kodak employee and previously one of the biggest Kodak fans in the industry, the unswervingly positive Alan Logue, who wrote in a separate article:
– Our store still trades as a Kodak Express member (the only one now in Adelaide), but it is Kodak in name only. We get little or no support from Kodak Alaris in Australia other than an occasional email with a promotional poster attached… I also look at what Kodak Alaris is doing in the UK, and its support for its members is chalk and cheese compared to the Australian effort…
However, retailers critical of Kodak Alaris were at pains to emphasise that the relationship with Kodak distributor into the specialist and prolab channels, IPS, was as good as the perceived lack of effort and engagement from Kodak Alaris was bad: ‘My comments were aimed at Kodak Alaris themselves, not our trusty distributor IPS,’ wrote Stephen Feldon. ‘My apologies if that was how it was perceived. IPS here in NZ have in the past been nothing but supportive to me in my retail store, and I’m aware that the trio Brain, Sam & Graham continue to support stores very well, often in an “over and above” nature. The photo industry here in NZ is in good hands with the team at IPS.’
Following the article we invited Kodak Alaris Australia marketing manager, Michel Palm to address some of the specific questions put by Kodak-supporting photo specialist customers, and he undertook to do so, indicating a formal response would probably come from someone within Kodak Alaris with more seniority.
The questions, directly contained in the comments from the Kodak-supporting photo specialists and put to Kodak Alaris on their behalf, were:
– How does a “Commitment to keep silver- halide at the forefront of photographic printing” fit in with the push on KEX stores to adopt the APEX print system and the favourable terms given to low margin churn been provided by the mass merchants?
– I wonder who is dictating the prices and who is providing the hardware in the K-Mart arrangement?
– Kodak has numerous great products but how are they supported at retail level?
– Who does one contact here in NZ if you wish to become a KEX store?
And then operating on the ‘may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb’ ethos, we threw in our own question, based on discussions with concerned retailers:
– Kodak Alaris is effectively account director for KMart and Officeworks, both of whom a fierce price competitors to the specialist channel. Does this lessen Kodak Alasis’ enthusiasm for providing marketing support to photo specialists?
These questions were also copied to the business director of Kodak Alaris in Australia and New Zealand, Stephen Nichols. After several weeks we followed up with Michael Palm, but he did not respond to numerous phone calls, emails or text messages.
After six weeks we emailed Stephen Nichols direct (with a copy to the head of corporate affairs in the US) asking for a response – even if it was to be a formal ‘no comment’.
His reply ignored the specific questions troubling Kodak-supporting photo specialists and basically confirmed that Kodak Express dealers shouldn’t expect a whole lot more than they are currently receiving from Kodak Alaris – namely the occasional digital file to create Kodak-promoting artwork. And equipment maintenance for those with an equipment maintenance contract:
‘Thanks for the follow up and I’m not absolutely sure of the specific issues you wish to follow up, but our intention in making the statement we did was to present our position as clearly as we are able. In particular, Kodak Alaris remains committed to the photo specialty channel and will continue to support with ongoing marketing materials for in store and digital use. Direct access to our service and support team is available to stores who have a service contract with Kodak Alaris and all day-to-day management will continue to be handled by our distributors.
If you believe that there are significant unanswered questions then we’ll do our best to respond but we won’t be making commitments that we aren’t able to deliver on.’
– So that’s it. We were unsuccessful in attempts to have Kodak Alaris respond to its customers – but not for lack of trying! Those significant unanswered questions will, it seems, remain unanswered.