Why CVS and Walmart still print photos

At a time when most images do not leave the confines of a smartphone, CVS (CVS), Walgreens (WBA), Walmart (WMT)Albertsons and other chains still offer photo prints, greeting cards, books, film processing and other services.

Who needs to print photos anymore? Well, there is still demand from some customers: Photography services bring traffic into these retailers’ stores, especially during the holiday, graduation and wedding seasons.

More than 50% of photo prints made this year will come from a retail store, with total sales of about $786 million, said David Haueter, a longtime photo industry analyst and the founder of consulting and market research firm Rise Above Research.

Only about 4.2 billion 4”[ads1]; x 6” prints will be developed in stores this year, he added.

“People don’t print as much as they used to, but there are still people who like to print,” Haueter said.

Kodak machines are still good at CVS.
Retro technology and older gadgets have staying power in part because they allow people to disconnect from the constant ping-ping-ping of their devices.
Interest among Gen Z and Millennials in film cameras has picked up in recent years. Photography became a popular hobby, with camera sales reportedly increasing on sites such as Etsy (ETSY) and eBay (EBAY). Disposable cameras have also made a comeback with younger consumers, as celebrities such as Chris Pine and Gigi Hadid have been spotted with them, sparking interest.

Haueter said many consumers like to order photo prints and products at stores like CVS because they get the items immediately, with no shipping costs. They are often on their way to these pharmacies to pick up other things as well.

CVS offers photo services in about 7,600 stores. “We continue to see strong demand for this service – particularly around gift-giving seasons,” a spokesperson said.

More than 8,000 Walgreens stores offer photo services, said Raghu Valata, Walgreens senior director of digital commerce strategy and planning. “Holidays tend to be a busy time for our photography industry, with the highest foot traffic generally seen in December,” Valata said.

Although drug stores and other retailers have kept their in-store photography services, it’s not the answer for all businesses: Costco (COST) and Goal (TGT) have nixed them in recent years. Costco last year closed photo centers in all of its roughly 800 stores, telling customers that “the continued decline of prints no longer requires on-site photo printing” and that “digital technologies allow consumers to do more with their photos.”

But at Walmart, on the other hand, about 3,700 stores have Fujifilm photo kiosks — usually located in the store’s electronics section — and they’re often put to use.

It’s a service that “customers use fairly regularly,” a Walmart spokesperson said, including people who may not have access to a computer to order prints online. “We maintain a healthy business year-round.”

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