Mitsubishi Electric is a world leader and major innovator in the design and manufacture of high quality digital photo technology for photo retailers, pharmacies and photographers. Mitsubishi Electric Europe has been working with UK supermarkets and C-store chains to help these retailers provide high quality digital photo processing in store as part of their non-food offering, and benefit from the trend for busy shoppers to place increasing importance on convenience in selecting an outlet for these services. Mitsubishi is now sharpening its focus on this important area with the launch of its new digital photo solution, Easyphoto. Paul Jones, Mitsubishi Electric Europe’s Visual Information Systems Division’s UK Sales Manager for photo printing solutions, spoke to The Grocery Trader.
GT – What’s driving the growth of in-store digital photo printing in the UK?
People are becoming more accustomed to using kiosk-based terminals and being interactive in-store. Until recently they didn’t know what they were looking at, it was costly to use and there was major end user confusion. But the new generation of consumers aged 13 upwards has grown up with digital photo processing devices and storing images on their phones, which they save and print out, and if they don’t have printers at home, they go to a local store, hence Easyphoto.
GT – What share of this business currently goes through supermarkets and C-stores?
Again, it’s hard to tell: at the top end, the superstores are predominantly running photo labs, which we’re equipping with multiple systems. Easyphoto, the new digital photo solution we’re talking about in this interview, is designed for smaller supermarkets, C-stores and pharmacies, all outlets with space issues. Typically these are stores where it’s costly to wheel in a kiosk, but there’s still a profit opportunity from meeting the consumer need with a convenient solution. A lot of these outlets offered photo processing in the old days, and both they and the labs serving them did well: camera film is effectively dead now, but there are still plenty of shoppers wanting photo prints and convenient service.
GT – When did Mitsubishi Electric Europe come into the UK DPPS market?
Mitsubishi first introduced a digital micro lab as far back as 2002. The solution was developed specifically for smaller pharmacies and high street stores wishing to offer instant printing. A year or so on, the buzzwords were ‘kiosk’ and ‘instant print on the high street.’ In reality it was clear that quick success would come from the traditional sites that already had a loyal customer base or brand reputation for photo processing, and these sites found it easy to introduce self service solutions (kiosks). That said, staff still had to hold the customer’s hand through the upload and print process, which is not altogether a bad thing in independent shops that want to remain in contact with the customer.
GT – Paul, we interviewed your colleague Fraser McDonald in the May issue, talking about your LCD retail display solutions business. You’re part of the same division, Visual Information Systems: do you work together to meet major customers’ needs?
Yes, we do. Digital Photo and Visual display (LCD) can quickly find common needs with integrators looking to deploy quality POS to support the in-house infrastructure of photo printing. A few sizeable projects have emerged and been successfully completed in the leisure industry over the last two years.
GT – What DPPS equipment do you currently supply to the supermarkets and convenience retail sector?
Our core focus in the UK has been helping support the integration of printing devices into other manufacturers’ kiosks and photo ID solutions. It’s probably fair to say that if it’s instant ID, then it could be using Mitsubishi technology for output. This would be apparent in many of the large chains and independents already using digital instant output.
GT – Do you supply the machines as sales or through contract rental? How does the supply of the equipment and consumables work – do you deal direct with retailers or through distributor partners? Do you provide staff training?
Currently we operate a straightforward sales process for hardware and integration. The expertise at retail level rests with our distributors and specialist partners. However we’re finding more and more interaction with the retailers, who are increasingly becoming highly supportive and helping us offer the right solution to win the business.
For kiosks and digital micro labs we offer a one to one two-hour install and training service for the store. This helps the retail staff to gain confidence in the equipment and start offering the service from day one.
GT – What distinguishes you from other DPPS providers – why buy from Mitsubishi?
Mitsubishi has, in one form or another, been involved with digital output for up to 20 years. Our range and expertise today probably exceeds most of the competition. Key benefits include that we offer sales, service and support of all our products ‘in house.’ This gives us direct communication and a complete understanding of the customer’s needs for today, and how to quickly adapt and improve for tomorrow’s requirements.
If you scan the competition’s offering, we offer a more extensive range at a more acceptable price. Mitsubishi has many divisions to cover our overheads, including Aircon, Factory Automation and Display Walls. As one of these divisions we operate a very cost effective model and pass on the savings to the retail customer, who receives the highest quality available today at realistic prices. As volume continues to increase globally, we will pass on savings to the retailer so they remain competitive on the high street.
It is fair to say that some manufacturers’ core strengths still remain purely in photo technology, and they need to cover vast overheads to support the product range and installation base. That cost must be reflected in their pricing.
GT – You’ve just introduced the new Easyphoto digital photo solution. Can you tell us about it?
I think this has to be the single most important product we have launched over the years. It promises to be the complete digital lab solution for smaller stores and independent retailers. The team are excited, and the reports back from global customers have been astounding.
GT – What is Easyphoto?
Simply put it’s a complete, flexible and affordable digital photo solution, specially designed with photo retailers and pharmacies in mind, which works straight out of the box. You plug in the supplied photo printer load media and you’re ready. The unit comes with a clear setup instruction booklet that takes you quickly from start to finish. I know it works this way, because we tested it on non-photo people at the office and yes, they got printing very quickly, which I am pleased about.
GT – What kit does it come with?
As a basic package you get all that is needed to start as a photo processing lab. The EASYPHOTO customer unit and the robust CP9550DW-S printer are boxed as one. We even supply USB cables to make sure the experience is not spoilt from the start.
The attractive head unit can be positioned ‘counter top’ within the shop and the printer either below the counter, behind or simply underneath the Easyphoto, if you wish. The choice is yours.
GT – How much space do the Easyphoto unit and the printer take up – what is their footprint?
Space was always going to be an issue in busy, smaller stores. With this in mind we have come up with probably the smallest footprint available today, no larger than a shoebox. The screen pops up and remains adjustable so that the customer may obtain the perfect viewing angle, which is important as all actions are completed via the touch screen.
The smaller size has not removed any of the identity, it still offers the look and feel of a specially developed device for photo output and in the eyes of the end customer will look very much dedicated to the profession and bespoke to the retail environment. This is a key feature some of our competitors have clearly overlooked.
GT – What are the print options with Easyphoto?
All photos are printed on our market leading CP9550DW-S dye sublimation printer, which can produce 4″ x 6″, 5″ x 7″, 6″x8″ or 6″ x 9″ prints quickly and easily. The finished result is perfect photo quality on a very durable paper that is UV resistant and water splash proof.
The CP9550DW-S finishes all the work for you. Each print is perfectly cut and trimmed to the appropriate size and delivered to the customer quickly, and more importantly, in a very clean, ‘no chemical’ fashion.
GT – What about payment?
Control of payment is clear with Easyphoto. The customer uploads the images, completes the order and is then advised of the total amount to be paid at the store till. The shop assistant releases the job with a simple 3 or 4-digit password.
GT – What solutions do you offer for larger staff?
For larger stores, we have an optional low cost solution. A ticket printer and wireless numeric keyboard is available. When the customer completes the job, a ticket is printed showing job detail and costs. This ticket is presented at the till for payment, and when complete the retail person enters the password from the till on the keypad. This releases the job and allows the customer to return to the Easyphoto unit and enjoy the prints being produced. Of course at this point the retail person should have also given the customer a handy photo wallet for storing the photos.
GT – What output options does Easyphoto give?
It’s extensive but simple. If you want straightforward prints, then just go for it. Easyphoto can also be customised to offer a number of standard options such as instant printing, CD/DVD burning, brightness and colour adjustment, red eye reduction and composition prints.
GT – What else can Easyphoto do?
This is the killer application, both for us and for the retailer – Easyphoto can be expanded, with an appropriate camera, to offer ID photos. The ID option will include automatic biometric adjustments, making the offering of ID easier than before! For the production of passport office standard images Easyphoto will give a very valuable source of extra income to the retailer. However they must make sure they read up on the requirements of how the subject stands, wears and what the background colour needs to be. We can only do so much! Other functions will be the availability of calendars and frames, to offer that unique service if desired.
GT – It sounds complicated.
No, it’s easy. Images are uploaded via the camera’s card into the ID module, needing minimum adjustments. Hopefully further down the development stage we will show you how to connect the camera direct to the system and shoot direct into Easyphoto. This will make the solution the ultimate ID offering, being very, very quick to use and easy to output for the customer.
GT – What does the consumer pay for all these options?
It depends – high street processing for 4″x6″ shots can be as high as 50p for a single print. Volume runs of 10-20 prints could be perhaps 20p per print. ID will offer a very good ROI at £7.00 to the consumer for ID prints at an approximate cost of 9p for the retail store. That makes a very quick return on the initial outlay.
GT – What does it cost?
The minimum is an initial investment of £1,299 for a complete out of the box solution, based on a single Easyphoto system and printer, which provides a great return on investment and will literally pay for itself within months or maybe even sooner. Add the ID module, which is an easy to install upgrade, and you quickly have a complete lab solution for all your customers’ needs.
GT – How long does it take from ordering Easyphoto to setting it up in an outlet?
If it’s a simple solution, the product will be delivered next day and can be operational within an hour. We have phone support at our head office just in case the customer needs reassurance during the setup process.
GT – For retailers who currently have other digital photo solutions, how easy is it to switch over to Easyphoto? What about people with existing Mitsubishi DPPS kit?
There’s no need to switch over – Easyphoto uses the same output hardware, so media will work across all Mitsubishi supplied kiosk and lab solutions. If you are an existing owner, then perhaps Easyphoto can be just used as an ID solution.
GT – Where is this technology developed and made? What technical standards is it made to?
Mitsubishi Digital Photo development is European-based. All European offices regularly meet and share ideas about future products. Development is finalised at Mitsubishi Spain, but manufacturing remains within our core factories based in the Far East. Mitsubishi has a strong reputation for high technical standards: all our global offices and production sites meet high standards that ensure the customer, whether it be a independent photo store or the world’s largest power station, will only receive the highest engineered products.
GT – Are you offering Easyphoto in other countries? How is it doing there?
Yes, we are, and Easyphoto is set to be a global success. Already we have major demand coming through from America and Western and Central Europe and now have the opportunity to supply volume into Africa.
GT – What are your predictions for Easyphoto in the UK?
Again, we’re expecting great demand. This product caters for the retail environment and hits the right price point, making it an easy choice. It’s going to be very exciting to bring it to the market.