Polaroid has been left behind, but it has a new idea that may help it regain some of its luster.
In a partnership with startup Fotobar, Polaroid plans to open a chain of retail locations.
What will they be selling?
Customers will select pictures that they've taken with their phones, wirelessly transmit them to workstations, and edit them with filters.
"Once the images are uploaded, customers will be able to choose from a wide variety of materials, substrates and framing options for their individual works of art – all of which are handcrafted and shipped worldwide to the consumer in just a few days," Polaroid explained in its press release. "Images can be framed, matted, and/or printed directly onto a variety of unique substrates including canvas, metal, acrylic, wood and bamboo."
The first store will open in February in Florida. Polaroid plans to have a total of 10 locations nationwide by the end of 2013. Fotobar CEO Warren Struhl told Fast Company that he envisions "thousands" of these stores worldwide.
Will Oremus at Slate praised the concept, writing that it's "so simple and natural that it just might work."
"Having lost its way in a high-tech world, Polaroid is going back to ' high touch,'" wrote Oremus. "If it succeeds, the company will have pulled off a feat that few foresaw: returning to relevance in the age of Instagram."
It's about the experience. For instance, the first store will have a room called "The Studio," which will serve as a hosting room for photo classes and private parties, while doubling as a studio for portraits. The idea is to make the stores recreation destinations, rather than a simple photo shop.
Still, in the end, Polaroid and Fotobar are trying to capitalize on one thing: a desire for tangibility.
That's a divergence from Polaroid's old brand — it was always about immediacy. It's one of the many photography trends that led to the brand's downfall. After all, now anyone can get their digital pictures uploaded and share them instantly.
This concept will help Polaroid market itself as a boutique photography brand — not a symbol of an outdated method for instant gratification that was passed by long ago.
If it turns out that enough people still want a sort of permanence to their photos, this is a smart way to fill that hole, and it could make Polaroid relevant again.
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