Fujifilm gave us a sneak peek at its first U.S. retail store, and it’s a wonder

Fujifilm is bringing its retail concept, the Wonder Photo Shop, to the United States. Located on Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street, in New York City’s Flatiron District, the store – the ninth Fujifilm has opened globally – is situated in what has long been known as the city’s “photography district.” Beyond featuring the latest Fujifilm gear, it will also serve as a hub for photographic education and inspiration. The shop officially opens on July 22, but Fujifilm gave Digital Trends a sneak peek prior to opening.

The goal for the store is to generate a “photo renaissance,” according to Fujifilm, which it describes as a “rebirth of the enjoyment of photography.” As such, Fujifilm wants people to feel comfortable spending time in the store, and has designed the the environment to be warm and welcoming. There’s even free coffee while you shop or wait for your prints to be made. The goal isn’t just to move product, but to encourage photographic discovery.

Visitors will be invited to go hands-on with both Fujifilm’s high-end X-series cameras and lenses as well as Instax instant cameras and printers. Guests can even make instant prints from their phones at one of several kiosks (some kiosks area able to make small prints on-demand, while larger prints are made in the store’s in-house lab), or purchase a variety of products, from frames to albums and even 35mm film for analog cameras. A DIY lounge provides training from in-house experts and guest presenters, while visitors can document their time in the city by using the photo booth. In addition to workshops, the lounge will host lectures and exhibitions.

It’s clear that Fujifilm is emphasizing the social aspects of the space.

Upon entering the store, however, it’s clear that it targets everyday photographers, including smartphone users; the Instax cameras and photo kiosks get significant floor space, along with accessories to go with the prints. At launch, the X-series will have a smaller showcase at the back of the store; Fujifilm told us the store isn’t designed to compete with traditional camera stores, where Fujifilm’s enthusiast and pro photographers will still most likely frequent, but the Wonder Photo Shop’s layout is modular, and will change according to customers’ needs.

Beyond providing information and education to the public, Fujifilm is also using the retail space as an opportunity to gain insight from customers. Guests will have “the opportunity to influence product features as they share their own personal preferences and opinions,” according to Fujifilm. The company will use this feedback to understand the market and, ultimately, improve its products and the customer experience.

It’s clear that Fujifilm is emphasizing the social aspects of the space. Likewise, the company seeks to extend that theme into the social media sphere, as well. Its Instagram page will track hashtags to interact with customers, while a Snapchat account will provide behind-the-scenes access to store events.

The first Wonder Photo Shop opened in Tokyo, in February 2014. The concept was developed by Mark Yamamoto, the president and CEO of Fujifilm North America, who saw a potential for a store that met consumers’ changing photographic behaviors. Indeed, the store feels more like a lifestyle retailer than a traditional camera shop, similar to how the Apple Store made shopping for computers chic. The Tokyo shop had a overwhelming consumer response, he said, proving the model for expansion beyond Japan.

Besides a shift to digital, particularly smartphones, the Wonder Photo Shop also caters to a reemerging trend: printed photos. In its research, Fujifilm said in 2015, 68 percent of households were printing their images – an increase of five percent – with so-called DIY crafters making a big impact. However, at opening, there are no plans for in-house film processing.

Fujifilm chose the location for its historical significance in the New York photo industry. The area was once bustling with professional photographers and related businesses, but is transforming into a heavily frequented hot spot by locals and tourists. As of now, the Wonder Photo Shop will remain a one-of-a-kind destination.