Small, simple but
Researching the options for photo-retailers, when considering the internet
route for consumer prints from digital camera files, John Chillingworth met
one entrepreneur who has created a software package with the potential to
make life and profit margins comfortable for every business on the high
With the photo industry, investing time and energy in disabusing the public
of the impression that they can only view their digital images on a computer
monitor, it is not surprising that the major players, FujiFilm, Agfa, Kodak,
et al, decided to offer their retailer customers a means of capitalising on
their digital camera sales, with a web-based photo-print service.
Kodak is marketing its worldwide Ofoto scheme, FujiFilm has its FDi Print
promotion and the newly formed Agfaphoto division of Agfa UK offers the
Agfanet Printing Service. All in their infancy in terms of participants,
they are clearly ideas which have a place in the digital future for
However, there is a new ‘kid on the block’ with a concept, which is so user
friendly that it appears to make the competition look like ‘big brother’ on
a bad day!
Reading the runes
Before the rise and rise of digital imaging, Imagecare Technical
Services Limited, a Midlands-based distributor headed by Bob Sheldon was a
small, but highly professional enterprise, which followed photo industry
developments very carefully, always keeping a step ahead of developments in
the field for which it was best suited.
Because, in the past, Imagecare customers included a high percentage of
photo retailers, as well as prolabs, it is hardly surprising that with the
explosion of public interest in digital cameras, generated by the publicity
machines of the major ‘corporates’, the company has identified and
capitalised on the ensuing opportunities for high street retailers.
In his research Imagecare director, Bob Sheldon, found that despite the
attractive software offers from the major manufacturers, the vast majority
of independently minded small businesses would be likely to prefer to
control their own web site print ordering systems, with no strings attached.
With in-house computer programming expertise available, Imagecare have
created, tested and now marketed ImageTx, their software package, which does
Asked why his system should be seen as viable, when the major
manufacturers are busy locking in retailers to their own print ordering
technology, Bob Sheldon explained, “Unlike other systems on offer. With
ImageTx, there is no need to download software, or set up accounts to use
From the photo retailer and processing laboratory point of view, by using
ImageTx they have their own low cost, easy-to-use website, which can also be
integrated with their own existing sites, if required.
Using this home-grown package that includes an online trading facility and a
merchant bank account, the retail customer has a simple, easily understood
route to ordering photo prints, photo CD’s, Tee-shirts and all the other
options on offer from their local shop.
For the retailer? No commission to pay to the software supplier and no
locking into a disembodied system over which they have no control. Instead,
there is an initial setup fee and a small annual maintenance charge.
Working with ImageTx
It is never wise to take the maker’s word for it, when it comes to
matters digital, so what do those companies who already plan to profit from
In Dumbarton, near Glasgow, Ian Wilson of Photo-Ecosse, operating a busy
high street business, which sells consumer level digital cameras and media
cards, has other strings to his bow.
Despite experiencing a drop in photo processing orders to keep his Konica
and Photo Me machines busy, they are already printing from customers’
digital files extracted from the cameras he had previously sold to them.
He also has two photo Kiosks, but it is ImageTx that provides Photo Ecosse
with the additional source of revenue that is needed. “I was looking for a
way of capturing the computer-buffs who also use a digital camera. ImageTx
does just that and the simplicity of the print ordering system that fronts
as our own web site is a bonus,” says Wilson.
“Bob Sheldon and his son have given us a vision for the future from which, I
am convinced, new business will come rolling in, particularly as our
publicity in leaflets and local advertising produces results.”
In the Midlands, ICL Imaging’s David White, whose company is well known in
the trade exhibition and display field, producing the exhibition graphics on
its work hungry Durst Lambda, is already surprised by the joy of
establishing an additional profit centre.
The ICL Photo Digital, the new name for the company’s digital printing
service, is already serving the computer-literate public and serious amateur
photographers with its new ImageTx based online digital photo print ordering
“The many, simple to use, elements of Imagecare’s software, plumbed into our
existing web site will be a boon. The programme has given us no computer
problems – it even produces the invoices and delivery labels - and, after
three weeks of testing, we could not fault it,” David White observed, “so
when we have decided on our marketing approach to the public, we expect to
be keeping our Agfa D-Lab 2 busy – twenty-four hours a day, if necessary!”
There is, of course, the genuine argument put forward by the major
corporations, that with their name endorsing the system, it must be
superior, but contrary to popular belief, the cost of independence when
installing the Imagecare software is surprisingly low.
What is more, taking the ImageTx route, the retailer has his own fully
hosted site which can be customised (changing prices, colour schemes, the
logo, etc) at any time.
Examining the company’s web site at www.imagetx.co.uk the assurance that
there are no security worries can be seen in black and white.
With the system locked into Imagecare’s online payment partners, WorldPay
and having been fully installed, managed, updated and supported by the
company, the retailer has a winning formula, to help capitalise on the
potential of the digital age.
Sponsored by Imagecare