What Have You Printed on Lately? Metal Art + Ingenuity = Imaging...

What Have You Printed on Lately? Metal Art + Ingenuity = Imaging Boutique with a Twist


Without legacy thinking clouding my creativity, I am developing what might just become a retail-imaging model for the future. I’ll describe this new Imaging Boutique by sharing the ongoing evolution of my store, Fullerton Photographics.

We are a beautiful store, so far from a traditional photo retailer that new customers might question where they are upon entering my lobby. We sell fabulous products featuring photographs in new and beautiful ways. We don’t care about 4×6 prints unless four of them, sublimated onto metal, sit atop a galvanized piece of steel. We create stunning home décor and personalized treasures the consumer has never before seen.

With Metal Art2 More Is More
This isn’t rocket science. It’s the simple evolution of this business—an absolutely critical evolution for a photo retailer determined to survive and flourish.

An InfoTrends report on net-to-mail revenue, U.S. Online Photo Services Forecast: 2010-2015, states: (1) custom photo gifts and merchandise will account for 80% of online photo services revenue by 2015; (2) new product categories will emerge fueling growth. It is within this new product category that imaging boutiques can shine!

The key here is the “new canvas,” something I call “metal art.” Before I realized two pieces of metal could be combined to produce a beautiful new product, metal was just metal. We sold a few pieces but the consumer never quite “got it.” Aluminum was just another surface on which to print a photo. Then it hit me. By stacking one piece of metal on top of a larger sublimated metal background piece we could create a beautiful new metal product. This new wall art product showcased the customer’s image on top of a “designer background” developed by my team. Done—and with incredible results!

One year ago, Fullerton Photo began offering Metal Art2. I never could have predicted its universal appeal and acceptance. It is so exciting to be in imaging again! First, we put sublimated metal images on creative metal backgrounds. Consumers loved it. Now, as we continue discovering new surfaces that enhance the sublimated metal images, our customers can’t wait to see what’s next.

Galvanized steel and frosted acrylic have become incredible new background options in our metal wall art collection. What’s next? Black acrylic is a must, and so is the addition of this product to some traditional categories, like wedding and anniversary celebrations. We’ve had great success with our new galvanized line and our senior portraits. In fact, 92% of all senior portrait sales included one of three metal-on-galvanized collage products.

I’m sure you can relate to the rapid and ever-increasing sales decline of traditional prints. This decline affects us across the board, including the professional photography market. The emergence of this galvanized-steel metal art collage piece has driven our senior portrait sales beyond all expectations. Imagine four 4x6s yielding margin too big to discuss.

This is a market without boundaries. We are all very much aware of the significant margins in the personalized photo product category. With metal art, there’s no price resistance because no one knows what it should cost. Customers think it’s beautiful, they can visualize it in their homes . . . and that’s it! They can’t compare it to anything because they’ve never seen anything like it. When was the last time photo specialty had this advantage?

The Metal Art Market
To succeed in this market, you have to be nimble and quick. At Fullerton Photo, we’ve built a collection of standard-size background pieces and sourced them accordingly. We stock a variety of sizes and surfaces to meet most consumer needs. Never wanting to say no to a custom piece, I have a 30-inch metal/steel cutter in addition to a 12-inch metal cutter, metal punch and corner rounder. It’s very important for us to say yes to any project a customer dreams up.

This inexpensive equipment allows us to expand our product offerings on a daily basis and deliver to our customers a treasure beyond their wildest dreams. I never envisioned us as a metal shop, with cutters and punches, but today I can’t imagine us without this equipment. This is where my business is headed. I am certain of it.

Traditional marketing no longer produces the desired results. Promoting in a variety of ways, across all channels, is a must. We have to communicate with consumers to build relationships. As always, we have to offer exceptional products at a fair price and make sure the consumer is wowed at every turn.

For our galvanized-steel promotion—which is only beginning—we covered the windows of Fullerton Photo with signage stating simply: Brand-New Galvanized Steel. Web banners, e-mails and Facebook are being used to generate product awareness. Currently, we are offering an advanced series of photography classes through our Photo Academy. An evening gallery event, featuring our students’ images showcased on metal, will be the highlight of this series of classes.

Everyone who visits our boutique has a different project or idea in mind. Last week a customer brought in her beautiful invitation to a bridal shower. She wanted a unique gift to commemorate the special occasion. We scanned the invite, cut a custom piece of metal to the actual size, sublimated it and chose a great background from our collection to float it on. I never dreamed I could charge what I did for two pieces of metal and have my customer be so delighted to pay for it!

It’s just that cool.