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Polaroid's logo. Click here to visit the Polaroid website! Polaroid: Eight new digicams on the way!
(Tuesday, July 23, 2002 - 16:35 EDT)

As if we needed more proof that we live in a global marketplace, a Hong Kong subsidiary of a British company will sell its range of digital cameras under the Polaroid brandname through a Chicago-based partner company...

Polaroid Corp., the famous name in instant film cameras which last October filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has signed a deal with Chicago importer Spectra Merchandising International Inc. to sell a line of digital cameras under the Polaroid brandname. Details as to the specifications and model-names haven't been announced, but there will apparently be eight models ranging from webcams to a selection of 2, 3 and 4 megapixel digital still cameras.

Polaroid, which is still working to emerge from bankruptcy under a new owner, currently has 12 digital camera models, and it isn't clear if these are to be withdrawn or sold alongside the new ones. We'd guess the former, though, as Polaroid's digicams are looking pretty dated - the last new model from the company began shipping eight months ago.

The new models are all manufactured by Hong Kong-based World Wide Licenses Ltd. (WWL), a company which in the late 1990s was best known for manufacturing licensed products such as watches featuring Disney's Mickey Mouse. WWL was acquired by British import, marketing, distribution and sales company The Character Group plc in 1997.

WWL currently offers a range of 21 digital cameras from CIF to 1.3 megapixel resolution under the Cool-iCam brand. Of these, the great majority are CIF or VGA models with fixed focus lenses, and they're all targetted at entry level users. Hopefully the new models to be sold under the Polaroid brand will be a little more sophisticated, and interpolation won't rear its ugly head in the top-end models. The Polaroid digital camera line currently tops out at 2.3 megapixels, and it would do well to catch up with the market somewhat in this aspect.

As for Polaroid itself, hopefully its financial problems will soon be resolved. At the end of last month, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the purchase of "substantially all of its business" by One Equity Partners, the investment arm of Bank One Corp. - America's sixth-largest bank. The deal is expected to be completed at the end of this month, although it isn't clear what this will mean. To quote Polaroid's recent press release:
"While no reorganization plan has been finalized, Polaroid believes, as previously announced, it is unlikely that there will be any recovery for the company's stockholders."
One way or another, we're hoping that the return of the historic Polaroid name to digital imaging will be in somewhat better circumstances than it has seen recently.

Original Source Press Release:

Spectra Merchandising International, Inc. To Introduce New Line Of Digital Cameras Under Polaroid Brand

CHICAGO, IL -- Jul 18, 2002 -- Spectra Merchandising International, Inc., of Chicago, will market a newly developed line of digital cameras under the Polaroid brand name in the United States and Canada. The initial line of Polaroid models will be introduced in the second half of 2002.

Spectra is the exclusive marketing, sales, and distribution partner throughout North America for products manufactured by World Wide Licenses Ltd. (WWL). WWL of Hong Kong recently reached agreement with Polaroid Corporation for the exclusive license of digital camera products. WWL is also the manufacturer of Cool-iCam digital imaging products.

"The Polaroid brand name is one of the most recognized in the world," said Patricia Schoenberg, president of Spectra Merchandising International. "With this partnership, Spectra will begin to market products under the Polaroid brand that provide the latest digital technology positioned at the main stream consumer. The key to Spectra's strategy will be in our ability to maintain Polaroid's long heritage of delivering fun, easy to use, high quality imaging products to our customers at very competitive prices."

The initial line will include eight models, ranging in resolution and features from advanced web cameras to 2, 3, and 4 Mega Pixel Digital Cameras. The new product line will begin rolling out in North American markets during the Back to School selling season.

"Research shows that sales of affordable digital cameras in the North American market are expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 15 percent over the next five years," Schoenberg said. "The partnership with Spectra and WWL will help ensure Polaroid's market share of digital cameras now and in the future."

"We are excited by this opportunity to continue Polaroid's presence in an explosive consumer category. The partnership of WWL and Spectra Merchandising International should go a long way toward re-establishing Polaroid as a dominant player in the consumer digital camera category," said Dan Singleton, Director of Licensing at Polaroid.

Spectra Merchandising International, Inc. develops and sells about 200 consumer electronic products under several proprietary and licensed brands to virtually every major USA retailer. Sales also are diversified into private label, mail order and premium incentive distribution channels.

World Wide Licenses Ltd. is a Hong Kong-based wholly owned subsidiary of The Character Group. Founded in 1991, The Character Group Plc. is fully listed on the Main Board of the London Stock Exchange, Media and Photography Sector. World Wide Licenses designs and develops digital interactive products for global distribution.

Polaroid Corporation is the worldwide leader in instant imaging. The company supplies instant photographic cameras and films; digital imaging hardware, software and media; secure identification systems; and sunglasses to markets worldwide.

"Polaroid" is a registered trademark of Polaroid Corporation, Cambridge, MA. 02139

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