Search online for canvas prints — those art-gallery-like, huge renderings of your photos — and there are dozens of choices. Specialists such as Canvas on Demand, Photogonia and CanvasPop and traditional photo labs such as Mpix, Shutterfly and Snapfish all let you upload your images and put them directly onto stretched canvas. And the pricing rarely differs: 16-by-20s for about $90.
John Doe (his real name), the owner of newcomer Your Photo on Canvas, is trying to get atop the market with one of the most popular marketing concepts of all time — drastically lower prices.
His website still offers 16-by-20s at the standard $90, but he has a marketing arrangement with retail giant Costco offering the same prints via Costco’s website (and 50 California Costco retail stores) for $39.99. (The prices on other sizes are also dramatically lower than competitors’.)
Great positioning on Google (his site pops up near the top of search results), word-of-mouth and the Costco arrangement have paid off. Sales for privately held Your Photo on Canvas have exploded. In March, for instance, Doe saw $210,000 in sales, up from $9,000 at the same time last year. He’s doing an average 250 canvas prints a day.
Canvas prints are pricey, premium products, yet Doe can chalk up his good fortune to the recession. Before starting Your Photo on Canvas, Doe for 20 years made canvas reproductions of fine art for art galleries.
“But the gallery business got hit really hard,” he says. “Instead of making prints for galleries, I decided to go directly to consumers, with their photos.”
Zvi Margalit, a sales rep for a San Francisco-based tech company, ordered his first canvas print after seeing the team from Your Photo on Canvas demonstrate their offerings at his local Costco.
“The colors were so vivid and real,” he says.
He picked up a huge 60-by-40 print for about $200 and says he saved a great deal because he didn’t have to get it framed.
“I ran over to the framing store around the corner before I ordered it, just to check, and they told me it would cost $400 just to frame it,” he says. “With a canvas print, I didn’t have to spend time and money hanging a heavy picture on the wall.”
Joe Schmidt, co-founder of Raleigh, N.C.-based Canvas on Demand, one of the Web’s most popular canvas retailers, started in business seven years ago at a time when “There were just two of us out there, just us and a guy out of his garage. Those were good days.”
Still, he says that even with the increased competition, his company grew 20% in 2009 and has made more than 350,000 canvas prints to date. “We ship out thousands a day.”
As more photo enthusiasts find out about canvas prints (or “gallery wraps,” as they’re also called) sales are up not just for the specialists but for traditional photo labs, as well.
Mpix, a unit of popular photography lab Miller’s Professional Imaging, says canvas sales are up 130% this year. “The growth is unbelievable,” says Joe Dellasega, Mpix’s marketing director.
Chris Chute, an analyst at researcher IDC, says that canvas prints account for just 2.5% of the $400 million photo accessory market, but he sees that growing in coming years.
“Buying a print on canvas adds more dimensionality to the image and gives it a more artistic bent than you could ever get with a frame and glass,” he says.
“In the old days, the only way you could get a good family portrait for the wall was to hire someone to paint it. The technology makes this much more accessible.”
Cranking out canvas
It also makes it easier for mom-and-pops to enter the business. “The cost to actually produce a canvas and get started in the market is not incredibly expensive,” says Schmidt. “Anyone can get a printer and produce one nice canvas. The difference is whether you can produce a thousand in a day and have all of them be of impeccable quality.”
The crowded market for canvas prints does more harm than good, Chute says. “This is a more pricey product, and if it turns out badly, you’re less likely to order a second one.”
Doe has a 50,000-square-foot facility in Anaheim, where he does nothing but make canvas prints.
The process begins with the photo enthusiast uploading a picture to Doe’s website, where it is pulled down by a computer technician and tweaked, and gets a bar code added for delivery. It is then sent to a large industrial inkjet printer that compiles several images from different orders onto large canvas sheets. The images then are chopped up and stretched separately onto wood frames. Then the print is packed up and sent out for delivery.
Doe says he saw bigger revenue when the art business was good but that by next year, his photo business likely will surpass what he was seeing from the galleries.
Via USA Today