Business As Usual

Picture pretty

- Rose G. De La Cruz -
It takes imagination coupled with hard-nosed business sense to locate a retail business dependent on walk-in clients on the 11th floor of an office building along Ayala Ave. And these were exactly what North Citrus, Inc. had when it opened Pix Station in March 2005.

"We operate a kiosk in the food court, which caters to the workers in the building as well as in nearby buildings. We do not have any direct competition within the building, which stays open as late as 11 p.m. because of nightly entertainment like films and bands/acoustics. The Ayala mall is still a good 15-minute walk away, where many of our competitors are located," said managing director Jennifer Salmingo.

Pix Station processes photos taken by cellular phones and digital cameras. It also rebuilds old photos taken by regular cameras by scanning and customizing these in an artistic way such as the pop art popularized by Andy Warhol, given the client’s requirements.

Clients either bring their CDs or blue tooth photos to the kiosk. Printing out a photo taken by a cellular phone is done on-site, takes five minutes, and costs P20 per photo. Other orders, which can go as high as P6,000 for a photo canvas, take at least a day, mainly because the company’s big printer and the techno-savvy staff of four are based off-site to reduce operating cost.

"Everything depends on the customer. We advice customers on how to best cherish their prized photos by making them artistic home decor pieces. We encourage our customers to tell us what they like and we recommend a menu of products to select from, depending on their budget," said Salmingo.

Based on the company’s four month experience, daily business peaks from 3 p.m. onwards. On a weekly basis, Monday is a busiest day as customers rush to develop photos taken during the weekend while Friday is the slowest day.

"We have a lot of inquiries during the lunch break. Those who are interested return during their afternoon coffee break," said Salmingo.
Of late, North Citrus has been selling frames, the most popular being the pricey non-glare ones, at the Pix Station kiosk. It is also venturing into photo mosaic, which look good in furniture pieces like dividers, and other artistic pieces.

"What we are doing is preserving memories at a higher level, not just at the picture level. We convert the digital shots taken, composed, and edited by our customers into something that they would be very proud to show," said Salmingo. "Given my academic background in interior design and my professional experiences with an advertising agency and the IT group of one of the country’s biggest companies, we have a competitive edge in terms of artistry against our competitors," said Salmingo.

Within the year, the company intends to put up another kiosk, either in Ortigas, Alabang, or Pasig. Franchising has also been discussed.

"I am not really in a hurry. I am still studying every phase of the operation and what would be the benefit of franchising it. The risks are big. My would-be franchisees might end up becoming my direct competitors. I will have to study everything first before consulting with a professional franchising counselor ," said Salmingo
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