Kmart and Olan Mills created one of the store's most popular services through the Kmart Portrait Studio in the late 90s. However, the birth of the digital age and Kmart's changing financial market resulted in the slow decline of the business until it was sold to Lifetouch and then closed in 2012 and 2013. While the company is no longer available, they do offer a customer service line for previous customers.
A Brief History of Olan Mills
All of the Kmart Photo Studios were owned and operated by Olan Mills, a photography company first established in 1932 by former real estate salesman Olan Mills Sr. and his wife, Mary. Olan Mills replaced the PCA International within the Kmart stores in 1998 as part of a strategy to revitalize their stores and compete with Walmart.
In 1999, Olan Mills sold its school division to Lifetouch, focusing all its efforts on the Kmart chain. However, in 2002, Kmart filed bankruptcy, which caused a downward spiral in the years that followed. Olan Mills started to open studios in other retailers like Meijer, but in 2011, due to the digital age and differing tastes, Olan Mills sold the business to Lifetouch, Inc. The acquisition included the company's studio photography business inside Kmart, Meijer, Belk, and Macy's stores as well as its production facilities in Chattanooga and its church directory business. At the time of the acquisition, it was estimated that 60 percent of Olan Mills' business came from its church directory division.
Lifetouch closed the Olan Mills production facilities in 2012, resulting in a loss of 383 jobs. The majority of Olan Mills studio locations, including those that were inside Kmart stores, were closed by mid-2013. Olan Mills studios that did not close were doing business as Flash Portraits; however, this has since closed.
Getting Prints or Reprints
If you're a former Kmart Photo Studio customer, the negatives from your session may not be available. According to Maureen A. Taylor from Family Tree Magazine, Olan Mills only kept negatives on file for two years. Additionally, the website www.olanmills.com and their revised website www.flashportraits.com will now funnel you to JC Penney Portraits.
However, if you have an image or want to get a reprint of an image, there is still hope available. You can still reach a customer service representative through the customer service line at (800) 251-6320 who may be able to assist you. You will most likely need to provide them with the ID number that can be found on the back of the image, which identifies the studio and the date the image was taken.
Other Options Available
Unfortunately, after Kmart's Photo Studios closed, Sears Portrait Studios and the PictureMe studios located inside many Walmart stores also shut their doors. Additionally, Target Portrait Studios shut down its remaining facilities as of 2017.
However, if you're still in need of affordable family photos and don't want to take the images yourself, there are other options to consider.
- JC Penney Portrait Studios, which both Target and Olan Mills studios now recommend, offer economical picture packages as well as money saving special offers throughout the year. You can even order your images printed on gift items such as coffee mugs, coasters, and tote bags.
- Picture People is another low-priced photography alternative. They offer a Portrait Rewards Club membership designed to help you save money on repeat visits, which is perfect for parents of young children who want to document their growth on a regular basis.
- Portrait Innovations has over 200 studio locations through the United States. Visit their website to schedule a session online and to view the various photo gift products the company offers.
- The Portrait Studio located within Walmart Supercenters offers packages for as low as $9.99 and 10 percent off for teachers, military personnel and senior citizens. You can also find special offers on gift items.
Memories That Last a Lifetime
Although Kmart Photo Studios are no longer in business, help is available by contacting their customer service hotline if you are looking for images. Additionally, Olan Mills customers can find the same great service through a number of affordable photo alternatives. With so many photography options available, there's no excuse not to preserve your favorite memories with a special family photo!