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Retail Trends

Physical is the New Digital

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“Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera,” according to a TV ad for Apple’s iPhone.

Warren Struhl, entrepreneur and avid people watcher, has been keeping tabs on the meteoric growth of digital photography for some time now. He saw an opportunity to capitalize on the one thing digital photo enthusiasts didn’t like about taking photos with their iPhone -- or any other mobile device, for that matter.

“When I asked people to show me their favorite digital photo they would quickly pull out their mobile device and bring it up on the screen. But when I asked them if that same image lived on a wall in their home or on their desk at work, nearly all” said it didn’t, says Struhl, CEO and founder of Polaroid Fotobar.

“I realized that physical is the new digital. And that inspiration became the genesis for the Polaroid Fotobar,” says Struhl, who opened the first unit in Delray Beach, Fla., in March.

“There are people who print 4 x 6 images from their digital device at the local drug store. That’s not the business we’re targeting. At the Fotobar, customers have the chance to go home with a great quality, perhaps oversized, print of their favorite memory -- the one they want to hang on the wall in the living room.

“There’s never been a simple way for people to liberate their photos from their smartphones, cameras, social platforms or even old shoeboxes to create something special that can be displayed,” he says. “We’re providing people with a way to preserve life’s great moments.”

Struhl describes the partnership with Polaroid as a perfect fit. “It’s a brand that resonates with the idea of sharing precious moments, creativity and fun. It takes people back to a simpler time.”

The store’s Apple-esque design and experience includes hands-on assistance from photo experts if desired. Amateur shutterbugs can tweak images to achieve just the right balance -- then turn their photo into a unique product.

There’s no need to plug in to a system; part of the magic is in the service’s wireless technology. Customers choose from an extensive variety of photo options and matting and framing materials. Among the most popular options is the ability to instantly print an image in the Polaroid Classic Border Logo format, available in five sizes.

The first store opened just a few months ago, and Struhl says shopper response has been positive; in fact, the Delray Beach store now has so much repeat business that some customers have been dubbed groupies.

Last month Polaroid Fotobar announced that it has signed five additional leases – a precursor to the national rollout Struhl envisions in the coming years. Four of the new stores will be located in Florida; the fifth opens July 1 in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. Plans call for 10 stores in operation by the one-year mark; Struhl has set his sights on opening 1,000 units.