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Sears, Wal-Mart, and Olan Mills Studios Out Of Business

Business Dried Up for Photo Studios

This is one of the biggest news for the photo industry in recent history. A lot of people in the photo and studio industry have been expecting it for the past several years. Chain store portrait studios in Sears and Walmart (PictureMe Portrait studio) across the US are closing. The parent company, CPI Corp. of St. Louis is bust after defaulting to it's leanders. Their photo studio business has been doomed for years. In addition, Olan Mills studios were sold to Lifetouch more than a year ago but now Lifetouch has decided to close their acquisition. Many Olan Mills studios were in K-Mart. Altogether, several thousand studios are now closed.

CPI Corp. was one of the first ones in going 100% digital and thought that going digital alone would save them, but it wasn’t enough. They needed to fundamentally change their business model and style of photography, but instead, they were not able to adapt to the new market conditions.

The website for Sears Portrait Studio has a statement up saying the following:

"After many years of providing family portrait photography, we are sad to announce our Sears Portrait Studios are now closed. We appreciate your patronage and allowing us to capture your precious memories. If you currently have an album or have had a recent portrait session, you can order products at searsphotos.com thru April 18, 2013"

Olan Mills had been failing for years. First they sold off their school photography to Lifetouch, then they sold off their church directory business to Lifetouch. Then a little over a year ago, they sold their portrait studios to Lifetouch, but unfortunately they found the load too heavy to carry so they started shutting operations down a few months ago. 

Look out for Target Portrait Studio to face the same outcome unless they manage to do something substancially different.

Store photo studios, which did big buswallmart studio out of businessiness in the 1970s through the 1990s, have been closing in recent years due to the move to digital and smartphone photography, where anyone can create, crop, and edit a family photo online.

They don't compete directly with high end photo studios that cater to a different clientele that seek art prints and edited portraits, but it shows how the market conditions have fundamentally changed for photo studios and photographers with the advance of photo technology and the internet.

Now with the disappearance of these economical store studios, the gap between cheap digital portraits taken at home or by friends, and the high end fine art portraits is growing even larger, who is filling the void? If there is any void?

In addition, the demand for paper photo albums substantially decreased during the last couple of years, most clients nowadays only ask for the images on a DVD and unfortunate that's where the images "spend their life", or until the hard drive crashes or the DVD is lost or corrupt.

I always encourage my clients to enjoy their portraits and photos with prints and albums, it's a tangible item of their captured memories that they can enjoy for generations, and it's far superior to any digital media for any important photos.

So what does these news mean for professional photographers and photo studios?? I believe that if you don’t produce a product that is both modern and clearly different from what any amateur can do, your days are numbered.  The digital revolution has made it too easy for the public to shoot their own pictures on location and get pretty good results.

However, with everyone now taking their own pictures, the typical level of quality has fallen dramatically and the work of a true professional photographer is even more distinctively different than ever.

That's one of the reasons we at IGOR Photography will differentiate ourselves with artsitic and unique photography that's not easily duplicated by the public or other photographers. You have to adapt to the new market conditions or it's time to shut the doors.


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