So far, supermarkets have been waiting for movement on the Advanced Photo System. Even though APS made its debut a little more than a year ago, sales have remained sluggishly slow for most food chains. "APS is slow. We're selling a few APS cameras, but they aren't jumping off the shelf. Consumers who need a new camera will pick an APS, but if not they're perfectly happy with their present cameras," said Charles Yahn, vice president of general merchandise at Associated Wholesalers, Robesonia, Pa., who also serves as this year's chairman of the General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Preliminary figures from the Photo Marketing Association International, Jackson, Mich., indicate that APS has barely broken the surface in terms of market penetration. The goal, according to manufacturers, is to have APS represent 20% of film and 80% of camera sales by the year 2000.
Of the 16.2 million total cameras sold in all classes of trade last year, 1.1 million were estimated to be APS cameras. This compares to the 15 million total cameras sold in 1995. Of the 65 million single-use cameras sold in all retail outlets, 0.4%, were APS single-use cameras.
In terms of photo processing, of the total rolls processed in the first quarter of 1997 in all trade classes, 1.9% were APS.
The main problem cited by retailers polled by SN is lack of awareness. Many believe more advertising by the five companies that gave birth to APS is needed to drive knowledge of the system and differentiate it from traditional 35-millimeter photography in consumers' mind.
"APS is a major deal with all the manufacturers involved, yet we haven't seen any really big push on it since the initial rollout," said Dan Black, managing buyer/merchandiser for general merchandise at Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif.
Ted Fox, PMA's operations officer, said, "APS is fairly well received. The consumers who have purchased APS cameras, film and photo finishing have a high degree of acceptance." Fox agreed that there is the "issue of building awareness, and manufacturers recognize it."
He added, "Once people have a better understanding that APS is a totally different system and enhancement, demand will grow."
Manufacturers are increasing their efforts to get that awareness out, Fox pointed out. According to reports, Kodak's media support of Advantix will approach $100 million this year. Other developers of the format, including Minolta Corp. and Fuji Photo Film USA also plan to spend heavily. Fuji plans to double its $6.6 million budget to publicize its Smart Film brand.
Yahn of Associated Wholesalers also said that consumers need to understand that "APS is totally different and not merely an enhancement of what they already have." According to the wholesaler, manufacturers need to do a better job of explaining APS to consumers, so they can feel comfortable with the concept. "Shoppers haven't been convinced of its benefits," Yahn said.
He believes the $1 to $2 higher developing cost also has kept APS film sales below expectations. "Shoppers apparently have been pleased with regular 35mm film processing quality and its lower cost. They also are very happy with their present cameras," Yahn said.
Margins on APS are better than traditional film. APS photo finishing carries margins of around 24%, compared with about 18% on traditional prints, and 12% film margins vs. 8% for traditional film, Yahn added.
The retailers that Associated supplies with photo products work on margins of 25% on APS cameras, which retail at $49, $69 and $99. The midrange model generates the best sales.
Jeff Manning, vice president of general merchandise at Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz., reports an uptick in APS sales, especially when the system is featured in store ads. The chain frequently features Kodak and Fuji APS films, and single-use cameras priced to $15 in its film and photo promotion circulars.
"We're starting to get a steady turns on APS film and photo developing," said Manning. "The ads build a greater awareness for these products in our stores.
APS single-use camera sales are doing fairly well at John C. Groub Co., Seymour, Ind. However, APS film sales are lagging, said Larry Miller, health and beauty care buyer.
"Customers aren't well versed in APS, although we've had fair success with APS single-use cameras priced in the $10 range," Miller said. APS overall, however, hasn't expanded the chain's photo category business, he added.
Shoppers "are buying disposable cameras to try APS rather than buying a whole camera outfit," said Miller. "People in our marketing area use their camera until it breaks. They're hesitant about throwing out a $100 35mm camera and spending $150 for a new APS model just so they can use APS film and processing," he said.
Miller was optimistic when assessing APS' future and believes the format will probably need more time to gain greater consumer acceptance. "It won't 'save mankind' since we still do a halfway decent business with the old 110 film," he stressed.
Sales of APS film, cameras and photo finishing at Clemens Markets, Kulpsville, Pa., "have been extremely slow due to a lack of consumer awareness," said Larry Schimpf, director of nonfood.
"Although the product itself is great, manufacturers need to fill an educational vacuum. People have no idea about what APS is, or that a different camera is needed," he said.