(GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Costco announced Wednesday that it will no longer operate photo departments at its stores, bowing to the rise of smartphones, social media and digital photo sharing.

The Washington-based warehouse-style retailer, which operates more than 500 U.S. stores, said in an email to customers that the photo centers would close at all Costco locations on Feb. 14. Photography publication PetaPixel was among those to first report the news.

“Since the introduction of camera phones and social media, the need for printing photos has steeply declined, even though the number of pictures taken continues to grow,” Costco said in its message. “After careful consideration, we have determined the continued decline of prints no longer requires on-site photo printing.”

Costco will continue to offer photo printing services through its Photo Center website, which ships items such as photo books, stationery and calendars and prints on canvas, metal and acrylic.

In-person services such as home movie video transfer, passport photo, photo restoration and ink cartridge refill services will also no longer be available in stores. The company first started shuttering photo centers in 2019, citing low demand.

PetaPixel called the photo centers a “staple of the company’s locations, usually located just off the entrance to its many stores.” Other mainstream retailers, including drug stores such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid, continue to cling to the in-person printing services

An estimated 1.4 trillion images were taken worldwide in 2020, as ubiquitous technology puts cameras in the hands of nearly everyone. And sites such as Instagram, which counts 1 billion monthly active users, make sharing seamless and the printing of memories an afterthought.



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