Editorial: The photo/imaging industry responds to COVID-19

The 24-hour, non-stop coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic is inescapable. While we here at the Dead Pixels Society try to be apolitical and to focus on business-related issues and topics, it’s clear the pandemic is going to have wide-ranging effects and ramifications for the global industry. The mass cancelations and postponements of important photo and printing industry events, like photokina 2020, as well as anticipated interruptions in the supply chain. In the United States, the Small Business Administration has established a page devoted to COVID-19 resources.

It’s still early to gauge the effects of the pandemic, but it does illustrate how the global economy can affect even the most local of businesses. A chip shortage from China is now impacting the sale of a camera in Milwaukee. Nikon has already delayed the introduction of the Nikon D6 DSLR, which was originally slated for this month.

Many fulfillment companies, like JONDO, have advised customers it’s business as usual, while others have adapted their businesses to the new reality. Sigma Corp. of America, for example, announced reduced hours at its Ronkonkoma, NY, office and has closed its Burbank, Calif., showroom and office. Others, like DNP DNP Imagingcomm America Corp., announced office schedule and hours will continue under normal conditions.

As states like California, New York, and Illinois impose mandatory lockdowns, however, vendors and retailers are momentarily in limbo. For example, at press time, we received this announcement from Vernon Hills, Ill-based family business, Neil Enterprises: “At the direction of the governor, we have closed our office and production facilities due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Illinois through April 7th, 2020. Any orders placed will not be processed until we reopen. We appreciate your patience during this time. We will be monitoring the email web@neilenterprises.com if you need to get a hold of us.”

Others are taking a more proactive approach. Our friends at Photo Finale have advised us they have been working on bringing retail customers into online fulfillment so, even if the retailer is unable to run their lab, they can still provide product and ship-to-home.

The IPI Member Network buying group held a webinar this week, with members from around the world sharing ideas and tips for managing their pandemic response. Marketing resources to keep the marketing messages coming for home-bound consumers have been developed. The more optimistic members of the group point out this is an opportunity to get customers to try online printing or even to get customers to finish that photo book they started and abandoned. It’s not clear at this point how effective this will be long term but the optimism is admirable. IPI suppliers Fujifilm, Photo Finale and Dakis are providing marketing assets and tools through the group’s marketing Hub. Dakis is also hosting a free webinar next Wednesday, March 25th, to help photo retail customers adapt to ship-to-home, to online payment schemes, to website best practices and more.

Keep in front of customers

The loss of even a month of photo-activity could be devastating to the industry, as the spring school portrait season is endangered, along with spring sports, proms, graduation and yearbook production. On the amateur side of the industry, gift-giving opportunities like Easter and graduation are going to be negatively affected.

Keeping in front of customers is important, even at this time, so business are looking for ways to stay top of mind. For example, SaaS vendor Capturelife has teamed with partners 36Pix and UPGRD to offer the free “Operation Deliver a Smile”, open to any photographer that delivered digital images to parents with Capturelife in the fall 2019 season. Leveraging the 36Pix and UPGRD Photos technology, Capturelife will automatically create unique variations of the original image and send these new digital keepsakes to parents with a tailored message from the photographer.

If you’d like to share your COVID-19 plans or have suggestions to share, email them to editor@thedeadpixelssociety.com

Resources for photo businesses

Small Business Administration – COVID-19 page

UPS response to COVID-19

FedEx response to COVID-19

Strictly Business Webinar Video: Potential Business Ramifications of Coronavirus (COVID-19) (via ASMP)

Contract Cancellations webinar video (via PPA)

CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering the coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 Safety Help Sheet (via NPPA)

[Editor’s note: Photo Finale and IPI Member Network are sponsors of the Dead Pixels Society]