Strong year ahead of DNP

Interview with the marketing manager


With the strong commitment to offer the global market affordable solutions and take part in the profitable photo business, Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) has established itself firmly as a major partner to retailers and photo distributors. With the acquisition of Sony’s photofinishing business in 2011, following the 2006 integration of Konica Minolta’s photo operations, DNP is now aiming for the top position in the industry.

The combined force unites unique expertise in printing, coming from over 130 years of experience, with engineering and R&D skills integrating know how from the inventor of dye sublimation technology. Global production of photo media assures high production capacity, logistic expertise, and a balance of fluctuating exchange rates. Even with all this experience DNP is still striving to be the most flexible partner, providing customised solutions fit for the requirements of today’s savvy clients.

The product line-up ranges from DIMA®-awarded photo printers, all-in-one kiosks, ID photo solutions, and dry minilabs to customised retail photo centers for high productivity.

The users of DNP systems range from photo studios to large event photo companies, from government offices in crime investigation to some of the largest retailers in Europe, Japan and the USA.


Mark Buelow, European Marketing Manager for DNP, explains the plans of the world’s leading manufacturer of dye sublimation print consumables and his view on market trends:

1.       Tell us a few things about the company, its market position, acquisitions  etc.

DNP (Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. was founded in 1876 and as the world’s largest printing company has over 135 years of experience in the industry. DNP is further the inventor of dye sublimation technology and at the same time the world’s leading supplier of dye sublimation photo media. In 2010, DNP had EUR 14.3bn consolidated annual sales and 40,000 employees worldwide.

The activities range from information & communication over lifestyle & industrial supplies to electronics. In the field of digital imaging and photofinishing, DNP is strongly commited to become the market leader. Several acquisitions, most of all in 2006 of Konica Minolta’s photofinishing business and in 2011 of Sony’s photofinishing business, underline this commitment.

2.       Which is DNP’s market share in Europe regarding thermal printer & photo kiosks?

We are waiting on updated figures for Europe on kiosk and dry minilab installations. For photo printers, there is no reliable market research available. Through distribution partners, system integrators and directly to major retail accounts DNP have an installed base of several thousand printers across Europe, as well as print systems, kiosks and dry minilabs. On top of that we distribute the consumables to the installed base of Sony photofinishing systems. This results in a number 3 position in the industry regarding media consumption – the most important indicator for a printing company!

3.       What was the main reason for silver halide digital minilabs to lose their appeal?

 In DNP we have the experience of the Silver Halide business from our acquisition of Konica Minolta’s business. We have made a very clear decision for dye sublimation and seize our activities in Silver Halide completely. This choice was a clear choice for the future of photofinishing.

Silver Halide minilabs have their strength in material costs. A fact that is often overlooked is that total costs of ownership often show a very different picture. In most elements, wetlabs cannot compete with the new technology of dye sublimation: capital costs for the difference of initial investment, energy consumption alone make up for massive savings, savings on maintenance costs add up to several thousand Euro per year, no disposal costs for toxic waste, and water consumption.

Further issues that speak for dye-sub minilabs: There is a significant time saving in operating a dry minilab, it is much easier to operate and maintain, employees don’t come into contact with chemicals, start-up time (no delay before operation), no extensive training necessary.

4.        Under today’s circumstances which are the prospects for drylabs to expand?

As mentioned, we believe 100% in the power of dye sublimation. The strengths of total costs of ownership, speed, print quality, and ecological aspects speak a clear language. Especially for shops with lower and medium consumption of prints we see that there are clear advantages and Silver Halide systems become too expensive for too few prints. We also see strong price increases in raw material – Silver prices has risen by 30-50% in the last months. Therefore many owners of wetlabs are currently looking at alternatives. For several years market research has predicted earlier change to the new technology but operators have waited and hesitated to adapt. In the past few months we have received a clear message from the market. We receive requests from European retailers and lab operators every day. They made up their mind and switch to dye sublimation.

5.  Which is a better choice for the photo store: separate terminal and printer, or an all in one machine?

That is a difficult question to answer in general and depends largely on consumer behaviour. From my experience in Sony I can clearly say that the SnapLab™ concept of an all-in-one kiosk is working well. Almost 20,000 kiosks are installed across Europe. They combine ease of use and operation with a high profitability (very low investment compared to other kiosk solutions), space-saving and attractiveness. The SnapLab™ trademark is continued by DNP for strong reasons. On the other hand, some retailers prefer behind-the-counter operations with a high-quality photo printer, steered by their PC. The DS40 printer – and of course also the DS80 for larger print formats – fulfil all needs regarding quality, performance and reliability.

6.a)       Tell us about DNP’s  main selling strengths?

In DNP we are now combining the experience of the inventor of dye sublimation with the strength of the market leader in dye sublimation consumables. We have strong partners across Europe, a strong financial situation, and control on the media production as the essential.

6.b)       And on product level?

We are benefitting from our own heritage and continuing some fields of strength that Sony has shown over many years.

A very good decision taken by DNP was to continue the SnapLab™ concept of a scalable compact kiosk, and the development of the all-in-one ID photo system DS-ID400.  With these products we are confident to have unique offerings for our distribution partners which cater to the demands of independent retailers. With these products we have started campaigning as they represent clear and unique selling propositions.

But the whole line-up is attractive and we will work hard to keep offering product innovations that meet and exceed our customers’ demand.

6.c)       What about consumables and paper? Do you have a competitive advantage?

Yes, I am happy to say. We produce the photo media and are the world’s largest supplier of dye sublimation media. This fact is key to our strategy for market leadership over the next few years. Our R&D department will constantly challenge the status quo for us to be able to supply competitive media to the market.

7.      How can todays’s photo store justify the investment in a system like yours?

The industry has seen many changes since the times of analogue photography. Although a vast amount of images are being shot with many more cameras than there were ever in use, less photos are being printed while more images are being saved (and often forgotten) on computers or shared on Facebook and other websites. As an important piece of the sales of a photo retailer, it is our mission to provide good ways to make photo printing attractive. It needs to be easy and fun to bring great memories back to life, whether from family events, children growing up, or holiday pictures. The service of offering photos instantly in the shop is a service that is very much appreciated, and retailers should make that experience as exciting as possible!

The SnapLab™ concept helps to achieve this, as it is really easy to use. Also event photographers – at weddings for example - take advantage of the instant experience. The picture is already printed and ready to be taken home or enjoyed with friends only shortly after being captured. This adds value to the offering and thereby lets consumers buy more. The investment in photofinishing has to pay out, and we have the right solution for every location, from a small corner shop to a location with high print demand.

Especially in times of financial insecurity it is important to make the right investment. DNP products are efficient and will allow retailers and photo professionals to make a good living from photo printing. A great photo service has the potential to bring more customers into the stores on a constant basis, and not only to sell a camera. With the instant gratification of DNP print solutions retailers can bring a smile on the face of the consumers and good profits for themselves.