Lifetouch

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Lifetouch Inc.
Type Private/Employee Owned
Industry Professional Photography
Founded 1936, by Bruce Reinecker and Eldon Rothgeb
Headquarters Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Key people Paul Harmel, Chairman & CEO
Website Lifetouch.com
The sculpture, Generations, was created for the 70th anniversary of Lifetouch by sculptor Nicholas Legeros.

Lifetouch Inc. is an employee-owned[1] photography company headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.[2] It was founded as National School Studios (NSS) in 1936 by Eldon Rothgeb and R. Bruce Reinecker, and incorporated in March 1948. The company provides photography for families, schools and places of worship, with operations in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Through Lifetouch Media Productions[3][4] video support is provided to internal and external customers. Business units under the corporate umbrella include:

Lifetouch National School Studios Inc. provides student photography from preschool to high school graduation, sports, prom and dance, and yearbooks.[5][6]

Lifetouch Portrait Studios Inc. is represented in the retail market by some 800 photographic studios, including JCPenney Portraits, Target Portrait Studios, Flash Digital Portraits, Cilento Photography and Lifetouch Business Portraits.[7][8]

Lifetouch Church Directories and Portraits Inc. is an on-site family photography business for faith communities and other organizations, providing portraiture and printed directories.[9][10]

Lifetouch Services Inc. produces high-quality yearbooks and memory books.

Company photography labs are located throughout the United States and in Canada.

Company History[edit]

Company Beginnings: 1936-1949[edit]

Two traveling salesmen, Eldon Rothgeb (1916-1972) and R. Bruce Reinecker (1910-1987), had worked together for a couple of years for a school photography studio in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, they raised $500 and initiated their plan to open their own school photography company and set up business as National School Studios (NSS), “School Photography of Distinction,” in Minneapolis. They chose the Upper Midwest to launch their business, a predominantly rural area with fewer professional photographers; thus, potential for greater opportunity.[11][12]

In 1939, NSS had more than a dozen salesmen selling to schools—Reinecker in charge of production and Rothgeb supervising sales—and introduced its first new products, the 3x5 enlargement and 3x5 display folder, both of which had never been offered by a school photography company.[13]

Unusual for the era, salesmen for NSS were paid employees of the company rather than independent contractors

Following World War II, in 1945, the founders mortgaged their personal property and stretched the company’s credit line to offer approximately 80 percent of their salesmen (returning veterans) no-interest financing for cars and down payments to buy homes. This drove the company into the red and the bank canceled its line of credit, but Rothgeb and Reinecker persevered. In 1946, NSS was one of the largest school photography firm in the country.[14]

That year, NSS moved to a new plant in Minneapolis and began using the first continuous processing equipment in the industry, eliminating hand-processing. The system was adapted from the US Government's "V-Mail" system, which printed from a continuous roll of paper, and eliminated the slower single-cut sheets.[15] Hand-tinted and sepia-tone prints were added to the product line that year to stimulate sales. In 1948, 5x7 enlargements were introduced, the first in the market.[16] By 1949, the sales force was at work in all 48 contiguous states.[17]

Expansion & Transition to Employee Stock Ownership: 1950-1979[edit]

In the early 1950s, Stanley Merz of Photo Control Company, Minneapolis, began development of NSS’ Model 10 camera, and in 1952, NSS opened its first plant outside of Minneapolis in Winnipeg, Manitoba. During that same year, Eastman Kodak developed a new negative process and new photographic paper that streamlined color photo development. With the help of Kodak, NSS developed the school photography industry’s first cluster lens printer making it possible to print multiple photos from a single exposure. NSS was first to offer full-color (hand-colored) school photos starting in 1956.[18] Package printing and the Model 10 camera, a replacement for the original box camera, were introduced in 1957, chief advantage of which was a separate film magazine, better lighting control and better film metering.[19] The company’s first color print processor was installed in 1958.[20]

During the next decade, the Model 10 evolved into the Photo Control Model 5 camera, which remained the industry standard for the next 20 years. 

By the 1960s, NSS markets had expanded to include all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. New offices and production facilities were built in Bloomington, Minnesota, in 1968. That same year, the 8x10 school portrait was introduced to the school photography market, becoming vital to NSS’ success in the late 1960s and early 1970s.[21] 

Upon the sudden death of founder Eldon Rothgeb in 1972, Richard P. Erickson, a NSS territory manager, was named vice president of sales and marketing to develop plans for consistent growth and profitability.[22] Erickson integrated the company’s first two acquisitions—Universal Publications, Kansas City, Missouri, a company specializing in school yearbooks (1973); and Prestige Portraits, Muncie, Indiana, senior portraiture (1974).[23][24] NSS also released "Select-A-Pack" in 1974, offering choice of three different school photo packages rather than one.

Erickson was appointed executive vice president in 1976 when Reinecker prepared to become less active in day-to-day company operations.[25] Paul Harmel, who joined NSS in 1977 as controller, introduced long-range financial plans that moved the company forward, further propelled by Reinecker’s decision to reward his employees with an Employee Stock Ownership Trust, "ESOT," in 1977. The ESOT was unusual in that it gave employees 100 percent ownership of the company and transferred ownership without requiring contributions from individual employees.[26][27]

Rebranding to "Lifetouch": 1980-1988[edit]

NSS introduced a prototype of its Micro-Z camera at the July 1980 sales meeting, a system that Richard Erickson had brainstormed with the company’s chief design engineer, Tal Hopson, for handling NSS’ information and sales volume. Despite innovations, photographers were reluctant to accept it after using the Model 5 for 15 years. Redesigned four times in five years, Erickson was committed to making the camera work. The major advantage was that data could be applied to negatives in barcode, which Micro-Z printers recognized, automatically printing the correct photo package. It became the camera of choice in 1982. A key component of the company’s success was its ongoing dedication to the design and construction of its own cameras.[28][29]

Erickson was named president of NSS in November 1980. As part of a new corporate development program, Kinderfoto International, a studio photography company, was acquired in 1983, which pushed NSS into retail marketing and promotion.[30]

On August 1, 1984, Erickson announced a new name for the corporation—Lifetouch—saying that the new logo in script “looks like we’re signing our work.” Business units, each with separate identities, were rebranded: NSS became Lifetouch National School Studios; Kinderfoto became Lifetouch Portrait Studios; Prestige Portraits became Lifetouch Senior Portraits (now Prestige Portraits); Universal Publications became Lifetouch Publishing (now Lifetouch Services).[31]

In 1986, Lifetouch celebrated its 50th anniversary with sales of nearly 200 million photos annually. Richard Erickson became chairman of the board and CEO of Lifetouch Inc. and Paul Harmel was named executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lifetouch National School Studios in 1987.

Acquisitions & Expansion: 1988-1997[edit]

The 1980's were marked by numerous acquisitions for Lifetouch. Video Creations of St. Paul, Minnesota was purchased in 1988, followed by Enterprise School Photos, Inc., a school picture and yearbook vendor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1989.[32]

Lifetouch then initiated acquisition of School Pictures Inc. and Portrait World. Max Ward-Delmar, East Coast the leading supplier of undergraduate and senior portrait services, was purchased in 1990 giving Lifetouch an office and lab in Chesapeake, Virginia. Portrait Industries Corporation, a Max Ward-Delmar division, added to the preschool photography market.[33][34]

Paul Harmel became president of Lifetouch Inc. in 1992.

In May 1995, United Photographic Industries, Galion, Ohio, a church directory and commercial printing business, was purchased. The following year, Lifetouch celebrated 60 years and broke ground for phase I of a new Lifetouch corporate campus in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Phase II was completed in 2004.[35]

Olan Mills school division was an acquisition in 1999, as was a major competitor in school photography, T.D. Brown, of Cranston, Rhode Island, who had been in business since 1929. The Richard P. Erickson Scholarship was initiated in 1998 to honor Erickson’s decades of service to the company and to benefit children and grandchildren of Lifetouch employees.

Current Events: 1997-2014[edit]

Paul Harmel, who had been appointed CEO in 1997, was named chairman of the board in 2002.

Flash Digital Portraits became a branded retail concept in 2000.[36] Joining the Lifetouch family in 2006 was the photography business of Jostens, and in 2011, the photography division of Herff Jones.

In December 2010, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History received a donation of historic materials from Lifetouch as part of its effort to record the history of photography. The donation included two cameras, a Micro-Z and a TruView, patent drawings and interviews with the inventors that complement the museum’s collection of some 15,000 pieces of photographic apparatus and more than 200,000 photographs.[37]

On November 9, 2011, Lifetouch Inc. announced that it had purchased the remaining assets of Olan Mills Photography, both its church directory and retail studio businesses.[38]

Philanthropic Partnerships[edit]

The Lifetouch Memory Mission® is an annual volunteer trip that provides humanitarian aid to underprivileged communities around the world. Its first venture in 2000 was to war-ravaged Kosovo. Missions have since traveled to Appalachia, Jamaica, land of the Navajo, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and have assisted with Hurricane Katrina, floods in the Dakotas, fires in California and tornadoes across the Midwest.[39][40][41][42][43][44]

Lifetouch and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) announced in 2004 a joint national effort to enhance child safety through the Lifetouch SmileSafe Kids® program. Photo identification cards are produced free of charge for every school student Lifetouch photographs. Lifetouch maintains a 24/7 response team to provide images of missing childen to NCMEC within minutes. To date, the card has been credited with the safe return of childen in 23 states.[45][46][47]

Additional Lifetouch partners include the Canadian Centre for Child Protection,[48][49] American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Elementary School Principals,[50] National Association of Secondary School Principals, and National PTA.[51]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Employee Stock Ownership". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  2. ^ http://www.lifetouch.com/companies
  3. ^ http://www.lifetouch.com/media-productions
  4. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Lifetouch Today". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 150. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  5. ^ http://www.lifetouch.com/schools
  6. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Lifetouch Today". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 150. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  7. ^ http://www.lifetouch.com/portrait-studios
  8. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Lifetouch Today". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 150. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  9. ^ http://churchdirectories.lifetouch.com/
  10. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Lifetouch Today". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 150. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  11. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Realizing a Dream: 1921-1949". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. p. 15. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  12. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "A Lifetouch Legacy". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 10. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  13. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Realizing a Dream: 1921-1949". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. p. 22. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  14. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Realizing a Dream: 1921-1949". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 24–26. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  15. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Production". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 164. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  16. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "70 Years in Pictures". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 48. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  17. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Realizing a Dream: 1921-1949". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 26–29. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  18. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "70 Years in Pictures". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  19. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "70 Years in Pictures". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  20. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "The Fifties: Brave New Worlds". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 29–34. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  21. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Coming of Age: 1960-1972". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 35–39. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  22. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Coming of Age: 1960-1972". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 35–39. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  23. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Setting a New Course". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 44–48. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  24. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "70 Years in Pictures". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 100–103. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  25. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Products, Processes, and Growth". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 49–62. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  26. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Time of Transition". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 63–67. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  27. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Employee Stock Ownership". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  28. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Full Speed Ahead". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 78–80. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  29. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Technology". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 172–173. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  30. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Full Speed Ahead". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. p. 75. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  31. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Full Speed Ahead". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 83–90. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  32. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Improving from Within". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 96–98. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  33. ^ Osteen, Mame (1994). "Improving from Within". Reflections II: The Lifetouch Family Album. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Diversified Graphics, Inc. pp. 96–98. ISBN 0-9617259-0-7. 
  34. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "70 Years in Pictures". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  35. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "70 Years in Pictures". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 140–141. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  36. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "70 Years in Pictures". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. pp. 146–147. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  37. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smithsonian_Institution (2010-12-19). "Smithsonian Acquires Lifetouch Donation for Photographic History Collection<!lang>" (Press release) (in {$lang}</!lang>). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2014-04-03. "The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently received a donation of historic materials from Lifetouch Inc. as part of its effort to record the history of photography." 
  38. ^ "Lifetouch Acquires Olan Mills". Chattanooga Times Free Press. 2011-11-09. Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  39. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Giving Back". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 187. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  40. ^ Lifetouch Inc. "About". Lifetouch Memory Mission. Lifetouch Inc. Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2014-04-03. "Since the inception of the Lifetouch Memory Mission® in 2000, Lifetouch employees have traveled to destinations around the world to spend a week in intensive volunteer service." 
  41. ^ National Association of Secondary School Principals. "2014 Lifetouch Memory Mission". National Association of Secondary School Principals. National Association of Secondary School Principals. Archived from the original on 2013-09-04. Retrieved 2014-04-03. "During this Memory Mission, volunteers will help to construct a school, help with needed chores, and visit with community members." 
  42. ^ Stewart, Megan (2014-01-07). "Lifetouch Employees to Embark on 'Memory Mission' in Dominican Republic". KSTP-TV (Minnesota: Hubbard Broadcasting). Archived from the original on 2014-04-03. Retrieved 2014-04-03. "From Jan. 21 to Jan. 28, 2014, the volunteers will take part in Lifetouch Memory Mission's third trip to Constanza, according to the Eden Prairie-based company. In 2011 and 2012, volunteers built an elementary school. That school now serves hundreds of children who otherwise would not have had a chance to receive an education. The 2014 Memory Mission group of 50 volunteers will build a vocational school." 
  43. ^ Minichello, James. "Local Residents to Help Build School in the Dominican Republic<!lang>" (Press release) (in {$lang}</!lang>). Alexandria, Virginia: American Association of School Administrators. Archived from the original on 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-04-03. "Two representatives of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Denny Dearden, associate executive director, and Paula Dearden, director, awards and scholarships, are participating in a Lifetouch Memory Mission® to build a school in the Dominican Republic Jan. 21-28, 2014" 
  44. ^ May, Heidi (2014-01-24). "National PTA President Helps Build School in the Dominican Republic<!lang>" (Press release) (in {$lang}</!lang>). Alexandria, Virginia: National Parent Teacher Association. Archived from the original on 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2014-04-08. "National PTA President Otha Thornton is participating in a Lifetouch Memory Mission® from Jan. 21 through 28 to build a school in the Dominican Republic for the children in an impoverished, farming community." 
  45. ^ Osteen, Mame (2006). "Giving Back". In Sietsema, Elizabeth. Generations: A Lifetouch Tradition. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Primarius Promotion. p. 189. ISBN 0-943535-20-4. 
  46. ^ National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "Corporate Partner Safety Programs". Our Partners. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Archived from the original on 2013-06-22. Retrieved 2014-04-03. "SmileSafe Kids™ is a partnership with Lifetouch®, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and more than 35,000 schools nationwide. The SmileSafe Kids program provides two free safety ID cards to the families of every child photographed at participating schools. The ID cards can help law enforcement in the event the child is missing." 
  47. ^ National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "Lifetouch". Our Partners: Corporate Partners. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Archived from the original on 2014-04-03. Retrieved 2014-04-03. "Lifetouch works with the knowledge a current photo is one of the single most important resources in the recovery of a missing child. They staff a 24/7 rapid response team to provide current photos of missing children to NCMEC. This team has assisted with more than 1,500 searches, and the SmileSafe Kids card has been credited in the recovery of children in 20 states." 
  48. ^ Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. "PRIVATE SECTOR SUPPORT: LEADING THE WAY". Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. Archived from the original on 2013-11-02. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  49. ^ Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc (2011-05-24). "MISSINGKIDS.CA OFFERS NEW HOPE FOR PARENTS OF MISSING CHILDREN<!lang>" (Press release) (in {$lang}</!lang>). Winnipeg, Manitoba: Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. Archived from the original on 2012-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-04. "The establishment of MissingKids.ca capitalizes on the support and knowledge of the private and public sector. "Without the contributions of our partners, the creation of this new resource would not have been possible," said McDonald. "We are indebted to the Government of Canada, CIBC, CWTA, Google and Lifetouch for helping us search for Canada's missing children."" 
  50. ^ "Lifetouch—Official School Photographer". National Association of Elementary School Principals. National Association of Elementary School Principals. Archived from the original on 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2014-04-08. "Lifetouch, which provides photography products and services to schools and families throughout the United States, has supported NAESP for nearly 50 years, including providing founding support to create the American Student Council Association." 
  51. ^ Martinez, James (2012-10-11). "National PTA Announces Partnership with Lifetouch Photography<!lang>" (Press release) (in {$lang}</!lang>). Alexandria, Virginia: National Parent Teacher Association. Archived from the original on 2013-06-21. Retrieved 2014-04-08. "he National Parent Teacher Association (PTA®) and Lifetouch National School Studios formed a partnership in which Lifetouch serves as the official photographer for the association." 

External links[edit]