Print Refinery inspires the next photo specialty retail concept

Ron A. Mohney, Executive Director, IPI

At the IPI Member Network Conference last summer, we had the chance to talk to IPI’s Ron Mohney, executive director, and Brenda DiVincenzo, director of member success, about The Print Refinery. As regular readers know, the Print Refinery is a licensed branded retail solution for the photo specialty channel. IPI has monthly webinars to discuss the opportunity with potential members.

It’s been a solid couple of years for the photo specialty channel – at least those among the IPI membership – according to Mohney. Some of that is due to industry consolidation but there have also been positive steps taken by independent retailers. “Our members who are reporting increases are taking steps to market themselves better,” he says.

Brenda DiVincenzo, Director of Member Success, IPI

In addition to The Print Refinery program, IPI offers members a comprehensive Marketing Solutions Program (MSP) and is working to partner with vendors in the home decor and creative products space, says DiVencenzo. “We are also focusing on the commercial space, too, so our members who are more in the retail space can show they do commercial work as well. It really supplements those customer conversations.”

The Print Refinery – other than the annual conference itself – is the flagship of the IPI offerings. The group describes The Print Refinery as community connecting families, friends, and colleagues through social experiences and education. “It is the place to explore unique print and photo solutions for archiving, decor, gift giving, graphics and commercial applications,” in marketing materials.

The group has three licensees currently – see below – with dozens of members showing interest. Both Mohney and DiVencenzo say The Print Refinery design, displays and graphics are undergoing constant review.

“Our job today is to help our members understand their role in helping consumers understand the role of photography in their lives,” says Mohney. “It’s totally different than it was before. People aren’t going to print all their pictures again. We have to help consumers understand they can print all of these other works, like signature products like metal prints, and creative products.”

One of the least-understood aspects of The Print Refinery concept is that nearly all of the merchandising, products and training are available to IPI members, whether they get the full-blown PR license or not. The name “The Print Refinery” is reserved for full licensees.

“We expect our members to use these ideas in their own business,” says Mohney. “Our commercial printing display, for example, is available for all members. This is designed for everyone.”

“As we learn things about The Print Refinery and refine them, we make this available to our members,” says DiVencenzo.

The Print Refinery incorporates the MSP, Managed Marketing Services, and adds other features like a full website, email accounts and other additional services, says Mohney. This is available for a flat fee.

The goal of The Print Refinery, as with other IPI programs, is to help members grow their markets and sales. Additionally, Mohney says the brand has the potential to be a tangible asset for future valuation. As the average IPI member looks to retirement, a branded solution with a support system like IPI behind it makes selling a retail store more attractive.

“The Print Refinery is a brand and there are systems in place to help [a new owner] get up to speed, whereas a sole proprietership may be tougher to sell,” says Mohney.

Below are three galleries featuring images from three PR locations, to convey the look and feel of these very different businesses:

The Print Refinery – Louisville East
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The Print Refinery – Bozeman
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The Print Refinery @ Ft. Worth Camera
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