Costco to close in-store photo labs by Valentine’s Day

Costco Inc. has advised customers it is closing its 800 in-store photo labs, bringing to a close a long-standing brick-and-mortar retail player. The retailer will still continue to operate its Costco Photo Center website. Some services like ink refills, passport photos, photo restoration and YesVideo transfer services will be discontinued entirely.

In an email to customers, Costco said: “Since the introduction of camera phones and social media, the need for printing photos has steeply declined, even though the number of pictures taken continues to grow. After careful consideration, we have determined the continued decline of prints no longer requires on-site photo printing.”

The Dead Pixels Society reported on this trend back in 2018, so the announcement is not a surprise to industry watchers. As we wrote then:

For one thing, the photo industry has a weird relationship with the mass-merchandiser channel. Big retailers are at times loathed for a price-driven marketing strategy, yet few smart marketers will argue, for example, Walgreens’ constant promotion of the photo category doesn’t benefit everyone. Without a Kodak or a Fuji to drive consumer photo-printing awareness, it’s up to big brick-and-mortar retailers to carry that burden.

Large-scale brick-and-mortar retailers have a different business environment than photo specialty or pro labs. For one thing, most of them are publicly traded, which brings an added level complexity. Also, the company has strict formulas on square-foot-per-sales metrics, and if a category is both losing volume – like photo prints are – and isn’t driving traffic – like film-processing did – it makes sense to phase it out where necessary. Add to that equation the fact Costco associates are paid much more than their counterparts at other chains.

The loss of any retail presence for photo products is a net loss for the industry, we believe. The in-store visual displays of photo products keep the category in front of consumers year round.

National news

Still, the news did make the national news, as CNN covered the story, as well as on photography sites. Pro photographers, in particular, are lamenting the loss of Costco’s printing profiles and low-cost prints.

The Costco announcement is reproduced below:

The photo department at all Costco locations will close on Sunday, February 14, 2021.

The following products will remain available on the Costco Photo Center website for delivery to home or business:

  • Prints, Enlargements & Posters
  • Stationery & Photo Greeting Cards
  • Canvas, Metal & Acrylic Prints
  • Photo Books & Calendars
  • Photo Blankets & Other Photo Gifts
  • Business Printing ProductsThe following services will not be available after Sunday, February 14, 2021:
  • Ink Refill
  • Passport Photos
  • Photo Restoration
  • YesVideo Home Movie Transfer Service

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


Costco Photo Center