InfoTrends: Some Bloom Amid the Doom

InfoTrends: Some Bloom Amid the Doom


InfoTrends held their annual state of the industry breakfast at PMA last month and while several members of this research group addressed the crowd with some cold, hard, not so rosy facts, they did offer up some hope for 2009.

With regard to the retail print market InfoTrends research projects print volume to grow by 7 percent in 2009 over 2008 – from 19.5 to 20.9 billion. They added that they did expect this market to peak in 2010.

Retail Print analyst David Haueter also revealed a most encouraging finding with regard to the future printing habits of consumers as he pointed to a recent study on how consumers will preserve their images for future generation. “Four of the top five ways consumers plan on preserving their images for future generations involve printing,” he explained. “This certainly bodes well for this category in the future.”

While burning images to DVD/CDs topped the list, print related methods made up the next four: putting prints in albums; framing prints; making photo books; and keeping prints in shoeboxes rounded out the top five.

“We think the retail print business will remain strong in this down economy due to the fact photo prints remain inexpensive so it’s not likely something consumers would cut down on. Add to this the fact that in tough times people turn to things that bring them comfort and consumers maintain a highly emotional connection with their photos,” Haueter added.

Breaking down print activity for U.S. consumers, InfoTrends pointed to a recent survey that showed the average consumer prints 37 photos every 3 months. Moms with children under 7 years old print 58.6 in that period, and moms with children aged 7 to 11 print 77.7.
"Moms are much more photo-active than the average digital camera owning consumer. They often describe themselves as ‘family memory keepers‘ ”, Haueter added.

Haueter explained that the print market should stay fairly level in the years ahead and that the photo book and other photo merchandise categories still contain great potential. "We expect revenues from photo books, cards, and calendars to jump from $940 million in 2008 to $1.5 billion in 2010. We are actually expecting strong growth through end of our forecast period, which runs through 2013," he said.

One area InfoTrends urged imaging retailers to look into was the variety of new business applications digital has opened up with regard to printing. Things like corporate photo printing, annual reports, catalogs, real estate brochures, and commemorative books remain a relatively new market that InfoTrends cited as a potential growth area for photo retailers.

With regard to the digital camera market in 2009, InfoTrends research showed the compact camera market will shrink anywhere from 7-10 percent, depending on how bad the U.S. economy gets. The group explained that, for the foreseeable future it looks as though 2008 may have been a “peak” year for the category.

The DSLR category, on the other hand, is expected to continue the growth surge it has enjoyed in recent years, although not at as a robust a pace. Analyst Ed Lee explained that 5-7 percent growth is possible.

The residual good news here is the fact that DSLR sales lead to the sale of myriad accessory products – items with much higher margins for dealers than the cameras themselves.  "With DSLRs, you’ve got to keep in mind the body is really only the start of the sale," Lee said. "Don’t forget to ask your customers if they want fries with that order."
The other key ingredient fro retailers here is the fact affordable DSLRs have attracted the industry’s most important customer to the category – Gen X moms. With this demographic now using better equipment and taking better pictures it stands to reason the photo gift market should benefit as well – photo books, calendars, collages, etc.

Despite this bit of positive news, the mood at this session, as well as at PMA in general was cloudy.

"It sure feels different at this year’s PMA. There’s not so much booth space, not so much traffic. The energy level is down. This recession feels different from back in 2001 when the downturn was somewhat contained to the tech sector," said InfoTrends President Jeff Hayes. "Now it has become an issue where consumer confidence it at a crisis level and is much more broadly based. The photo industry is feeling it more this time around."