ABCO AGGRESSIVELY PROMOTES PREMIUM FILM PROCESSING

PHOENIX -- Abco Markets here is reaping the rewards of an aggressive promotion and merchandising approach with premium photo finishing services. The promotions, including discount coupons and a delivery guaranteed for premium processing services, have raised customer awareness about the 74-store chain's upgraded developing services. The chain also introduced high-tech self-service photo drop boxes

PHOENIX -- Abco Markets here is reaping the rewards of an aggressive promotion and merchandising approach with premium photo finishing services. The promotions, including discount coupons and a delivery guaranteed for premium processing services, have raised customer awareness about the 74-store chain's upgraded developing services. The chain also introduced high-tech self-service photo drop boxes that serve as film and processing merchandisers at some stores. "In the time we've had the premium processing, about 20% of our overnight work has shifted over to the more profitable upgraded finishing," said Nick Borze, Abco's general merchandise merchandiser. In June, Abco introduced a program promising three-day guaranteed delivery, or a free roll of Kodalux premium film if delivery was not as promised. Abco was the first retailer to offer such a program in the Phoenix market, said Borze. This fall, Abco began a round of new monthly in-store promotions which highlighted premium finishing with the following: a free second set of Kodalux 4-inch prints; $1, $2, and $3 off processing orders; a free 8 x 10 print with incoming developing orders; and half price processing sales. Signs posted at photo drop boxes alert shoppers to in-store specials. In its premium processing program, Abco returns finished prints to customers in enhanced packaging, with negatives in glassine storage envelopes. The packaging includes special services offered, including customized cropping and enlarging. The deluxe prints, which are date-stamped on the back, are returned in a box for easier storage. "In the premium program, the prints are handled individually as opposed to the mass production on regular overnight service, and we put that program in place to see if we could swing customers over to this deluxe processing," Borze said. Although Abco's film sales have grown strongly during the past several years, the number of people using its photo processing had declined, said the retailer. Abco hopes, however, to get back some of those customers through its premium processing services. While Abco is "not developing as many rolls [of film]" as it used to, the company has managed to keep its gross dollars for photo processing "fairly consistent" because customers are using the enhanced services more frequently, Borze said. This is because those premium services represent higher average dollars than did regular processing services, he added.

"Once you get them to use the upgraded service and they're happy with it, maybe you can get them to use it all the time," Borze said. "Our new self-service photo merchandiser and drop box will merchandise film, single-use cameras and blank video tapes. They will be going into about ten stores," he added. Getting a head start on personalized photo greeting cards, Abco broke an early bird special on personalized Christmas and holiday greeting cards over the Labor Day weekend. The retailer offered extra cards free with each order. Customers who order 60 personalized picture holiday greeting cards at $26.99 get 20 free cards; with orders for 20 cards retailed at $9.99, 10 extra cards; with 40 cards at $18.99, 15 extra cards, and orders of 100 cards at $39.99 get 25 extra cards. The in-store promotion will run through Nov. 22. The offer is highlighted at point of purchase and through window banners.