Why CVS and Walmart Still Print Photos


New York
CNN Business

Many aspects of drugstores and supermarkets feel like they are from another era. But perhaps the most retro part of these stores is the photo printing equipment.

At a time when most photos don’t leave the boundaries of a smartphone, CVS (CVS), Walgreens (WBA), Walmart (WMT), Albertsons and other chains still offer photo printing, greeting cards, books, film processing and other services.

Who else needs to print photos? Well, there is still demand from some customers: photo services attract visitors to the stores of these retailers, especially during the peak holidays, graduation and wedding seasons.

More than 50% of photo prints made this year will come from retail stores, 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.

About 4.2 billion 4” x 6” prints will be developed in stores alone this year, he added.

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

Retro technology and older gadgets have a staying power, in part because they allow people to unplug from their devices’ constant ping-ping-ping.

In recent years, Gen Z and Millennials’ interest in film cameras has increased. Photography became a popular hobby, with cameras reportedly selling on sites like Etsy (ETSY) and eBay (EBAY). Disposable cameras have also made a comeback among younger consumers as celebrities like Chris Pine and Gigi Hadid have been spotted with them, sparking interest.

Haueter said many consumers like to order photo prints and products from stores like CVS because they receive the goods immediately, with no shipping charges. They often go to these drug stores to pick up other things as well.

CVS offers photo services in approximately 7,600 stores. “We are still seeing strong demand for this service, especially around the 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 are usually a busy time for our photo business, with most pedestrian traffic generally in December,” Valata said.

While drugstores and other retailers have kept their photo services in stores, this isn’t the answer for every business: Costco (COST) and Target (TGT) have rejected them in recent years. Costco (COST) closed photo centers in all of its 800 or so stores last year, telling customers that the “continuous decline in prints no longer requires on-site photo printing” and that “digital technologies are enabling 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 electronics department of the store and they are frequently used.

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