On January 2nd 2013, Polaroid announced that during the course of 2013, they will open at least 10 experimental photo printing retail stores across the USA. The first of these Apple inspired "Polaroid Fotobars" will open in February 2013 in Delray Beach, Florida, followed by stores in New York, Las Vegas and Boston.
A patent-pending proprietary technology will allow in-store customers to select their favourite pictures on their camera phones and wirelessly transmit them to one of the store’s bar-top workstations for quick and hassle-free ordering within seconds. This platform also allows customers to locate their favourite photos and instantly upload them from popular social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Picasa and several others. Uploaded photos can be enhanced on the bar-top workstations using photo-effect technologies such as contrast, red-eye correction, brightness and filters showing users the outcome as they work.
Once the images are uploaded, customers will be able to choose from a wide variety of materials, substrates and framing options for their individual works of art – all of which are handcrafted and shipped worldwide to the consumer in just a few days. Images can be framed, matted, and/or printed directly onto a variety of unique substrates including canvas, metal, acrylic, wood and bamboo. The ability to see, touch and feel examples of artworks produced using all of these unique materials is a critical aspect of the customer experience. As such, each Polaroid Fotobar store will be a gallery of its own, with creative, museum-quality pieces on display all around.
The stores will also be staffed by experienced “Phototenders”, each of whom will be a passionate photo enthusiast trained to help guide customers through the process from start to finish. The Delray Beach location will also feature a “The Studio” multi-purpose room that will host photo classes, private parties and include a studio location for portrait photos. Polaroid Fotobar store creators envision the stores becoming a recreational and entertainment destination in addition to a place to shop.
My thoughts on these new Fotobars.
For over 10 years (from the late 1980's to late 1990's) I worked in the high street photo processing industry, working in, and ultimately running one of the UK's earliest high street photo processing mini-labs; so I've got some experience of the rise and fall of the 1hr processing lab. In its heyday, high street processing labs processed thousands of films per week, but with the introduction and growth of digital photography, the volumes dropped and so many of the labs closed up shop.
Whilst there are many places that have kiosks, where you can quickly and easily get your digital photos printed, many of these are not very welcoming, however just like Apple retail stores, these Polaroid Fotobars look clean, inviting and zen like, that are currently in vogue, and for this reason, along with the promised skilled “Phototenders”, who are their to help you get the best out of your digital images, I think these types of stores will be the high street photo printers of the future.
The full Polaroid Fotobar press release can be found here.