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Polaroid plans retail Fotobars to print out your pics

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In a bizarre business plan that had El Reg checking if it weren't April already, Polaroid has announced a plan to open 10 shops in the US this year offering photo printing from customer's smartphones.

Visitors to the retail units, dubbed Fotobars, will be able to upload their photos from cameras and smartphones wirelessly to in-store terminals, where they can be cleaned up by staff called "phototenders". The amended pictures can then either be uploaded to social-media sites then and there, or customers can order a mounted copy on a variety of frames and have them shipped within a few days.

The first Fotobar, a 2,000 square foot outlet in Delray Beach, Florida, will open next month, and the company has plans for 10 more across the US, including branches in New York, Las Vegas, and Boston. The company says it expects them to become "a recreational and entertainment destination in addition to a place to shop."

"There are currently around 1.5 billion pictures taken every single day, and that number continues to grow in tandem with the popularity and quality of camera phones," said Warren Struhl, founder and CEO of Fotobar, in a statement

"Unfortunately, even the very best of those pictures rarely ever escape the camera phone with which they were taken to be put on display around our homes and offices. Why? Because turning those pictures into something tangible, creative and permanent is neither easy nor fun. Polaroid Fotobar stores are going to change all of that."

Or so he hopes – we have our doubts. Given that you can get basic printouts and image manipulation at pretty much any US pharmacy, and home photo printers are cheap and plentiful (Polaroid even sells its own), it's difficult to see what would entice people into the Fotobars in the first place – particularly if you have to wait for your prints.

But rationality is something that's been lacking from Polaroid's management for years. Ever since the company first filed for bankruptcy back in 2001, Polaroid has been passed around fund managers, all of whom have tried new schemes to get the company back on its feet – with a singular lack of success.

While the self-developing photographic cameras that gave the company its initial popularity are no longer made, the company is still in the electronics field. In 2010 the company appointed Lady Gaga as its creative director, a move which failed to ignite sales or tempting new designs. Still it continues to sink into obscurity.

"Polaroid has always been about much more than just taking pictures," said Polaroid president and CEO Scott Hardy. "Polaroid Fotobar retail stores represent a perfect modern expression of the values for which we have stood for 75 years. We are very excited about the opening of these stores, and the opportunities they will create for millions of consumers to have classic Polaroid experiences." ®

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