Fotomat had drive-thru photo development kiosks in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s. Preston Fleet founded in San Diego, California in 1965. He sought a convenient and affordable way for people to develop their own photographs.
Fotomat’s business model was simple: customers would drop off their film at a small booth, typically located in a parking lot. They pick up their prints a couple of days later. They sold film too. Fotomat made history utilizing dead parking lot space to house a new business. The company’s bright yellow kiosks were designed to look like miniature cottages. They became an iconic sight on American roadsides and parking lots.
Fotomat’s business model was to be able to save on rent. They accomplished this by being in a small, freestanding kiosks located in parking lots and other high-traffic areas. Fotomat’s kiosks were designed to be compact and efficient. They had just enough space to house payment processing, incoming film, outgoing pictures, and a small workspace for employees.
Fotomat was able to save on the costs associated with renting and maintaining larger retail spaces, such as shopping mall storefronts. This allowed the company to offer its services at a lower cost to customers. They still maintained a high level of quality in its photo processing.
In addition, Fotomat’s kiosks were designed to be easily recognizable and eye-catching. They had bright yellow color and distinctive cottage-shaped design. This helped to attract customers and drive traffic to the kiosks. They even briefly tried out renting movies on VHS cassettes.
By the early 1980s, Fotomat had over 4,000 locations across the United States. They processed millions of rolls of film each year. The company’s success came from its convenience and affordability, as well as its commitment to quality. Fotomat used only the best photographic paper and chemicals to produce its prints. It also offered a satisfaction guarantee to all customers.
However, Fotomat’s business began to decline in the late 1980s from the rise of one-hour photo processing and digital photography.
In addition to offering faster service, one-hour photo labs also had the advantage of being able to offer a wider range of photo processing options, such as larger prints, custom photo albums, and other personalized products. Fotomat, on the other hand, focused primarily on standard prints, and was less able to compete on these other offerings. Fotomat also took at least 2 days to process the order.
The Fotomat Timeline
Here is the Fotomat Timeline:
Fotomat was founded by Preston Fleet in San Diego, California in 1965. The company went public in 1971 and was listed on the American Stock Exchange. In 1976, Fotomat was acquired by Konishiroku Photo Industry Co., Ltd., a Japanese company known today as Konica Minolta.
Under Konica Minolta’s ownership, Fotomat continued to expand its business, opening more kiosks across the United States. However, by the late 1980s, Fotomat’s business began to decline due to changes in the photography industry, and the company was sold to Konica Corporation in 1991.
Konica Corporation continued to operate Fotomat kiosks for a few more years. But by 2009, they had sold off the remaining locations to other companies.
- Year Started: 1965
- Year Ended: 2009
- Origin Of Name: “Foto” vs. “Photo”. “Mat” like laundromat.
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Preston Fleet
- Owner While In Use: Konica Minolta
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Smartphones
- Naics Code: 812921
- Location Headquarters: San Diego, California USA