PITTSBURGH -- Giant Eagle here is testing ink jet printer cartridge centers in three stores.
The new service, believed to be the first of its kind in a supermarket chain, is the result of a joint venture with a Pittsburgh-area franchisee of Island Ink-Jet, a chain of printer cartridge refill centers based in Courtenay, British Columbia.
"This partnership presents not only an opportunity to offer another service, but also allows us to realize a new revenue stream and leverage the high percentage of individuals printing their digital prints at home," said Mark Lancia, director of photo, Giant Eagle.
Technicians from Island Ink-Jet operate out of full-service, "drop and shop" in-store kiosks in the photo processing departments of three Giant Eagle supermarkets, two locations in Erie, Pa., and one location in Pittsburgh. In addition, six separate Giant Eagle locations, four in the Erie area and two in Pittsburgh, are installing drop boxes, offering two-day service with pickup at the Giant Eagle customer-service counter.
"Orders from the drop-box locations will be delivered to a nearby full-service location for the actual refilling process," Lancia said. The drop-box approach allows individual locations the option of expanding to full service, depending on performance and customer demand. The program, which began in late June, offers empty cartridge refills from $4.95 to $17.95, a savings of up to 70% when compared to purchasing new cartridges, according to Giant Eagle.
The Giant Eagle full-service Ink-Jet outlets embody the first Island Ink-Jet locations in Erie and the sixth in the Pittsburgh market, with the franchise currently occupying nearly 200 locations throughout North America.
Giant Eagle views the service as an efficiency enhancement for customers. "The Giant Eagle shopping experience includes numerous convenience-oriented services designed to allow our customers to perform several tasks while doing their routine food shopping," Lancia said.
The Island Ink-Jet services are integrated into the one-hour photo processing centers of the Giant Eagle stores, said Dan Van Dyke, who owns the franchise, Island Ink-Jet of western Pennsylvania. "The area is co-located, a cross civilization of space," he said.
Island Ink-Jet has been running the "drop and shop" ink refill business model from kiosk and storefront refill service centers in regional shopping areas for more than five years and has found that it saves hundreds of thousands of dollars for consumers, while keeping 1.6 million empty cartridges out of landfills in 2004 alone, according to the company. Giant Eagle customers at the participating stores will be able to refill cartridges from major manufacturers, even though many manufacturers make their cartridges for one-time use. With proper care some cartridges can be refilled up to 10 times before they need to be replaced, according to Island Ink-Jet.
"The vast majority of cartridges can be refilled," Lancia said. "However, there are a few exceptions including new cartridges where the ink may not be available." To safeguard against any difficulty refilling, technicians use more than 130 different ink formulations in different combinations to ensure the best performance that can be reached with each cartridge brand.
The first full-service location opened at the Waterworks Plaza Giant Eagle in Fox Chapel, Pa., near Pittsburgh, on June 25, followed by the Harborcreek and Peach Street Giant Eagle supermarkets in Erie on July 1 and July 7, respectively.
Van Dyke said he has four locations besides the Giant Eagles. "We have centers in malls, high-traffic urban areas and busy strip shopping centers. We choose any regional center with a good amount of foot traffic," he said.