Sears and Walmart Unexpectedly Shutter Portrait Studios


After years of providing portrait services to local families and high school seniors, both the Sears and PictureMe portrait studios (the latter found in Walmart) have closed their doors for good. The news has been breaking slowly via local outlets as Sears and PictureMe employees nationwide found themselves without a job Thursday morning — some having receiving the news as late as Wednesday night.

Visiting either the Sears or PictureMe websites at this point yields the same message, with only the studio name changed:

After many years of providing family portrait photography, we are sad to announce our Sears Portrait Studios are now closed. We appreciate your patronage and allowing us to capture your precious memories. If you currently have an album or have had a recent portrait session, you can order products at thru April 18, 2013.

If you have had a recent session, your portraits may be available at your local studio.


According to the St. Louis Dispatch, all 2,700 Sears and PictureMe studios are run by CPI Corp, which is shutting down U.S. operations this week after defaulting on their loans. The company’s fourth forbearance agreement with lenders expires this Saturday, and no additional banks or buyers have stepped forth to save the sinking ship.

In a letter circulating among employees, company CEO Jim Abel explained, quite simply, that the “decline of our business proved too great an obstacle to overcome.”

(via St. Louis Post Dispatch via WCPO)

Image credit: Sears Unexpectedly Shuts Down Photo Studio (1) and (2) by KOMUnews

  • Ed Hamlin

    I wonder if you know much about the cost of doing business. I sit down every year and calculate what it costs. This year, if for the purposes of debate I want to make $40k.


    Office and/or Studio 17,200

    Commercial rent in Sears or Walmart is typically $1.25 -3.00/sq ft.

    Phone (cell and/or landline) 1,800

    Photo/Video/Audio Equipment and Accessories 8,000

    Equipment Service and Repairs 2000

    Computer(s) (hardware and software) 2500

    Broadband Internet 600

    Web Hosting / Portal Service 400

    Vehicle Expenses (Lease, Insurance, Maintenance)9200

    Office Supplies and Furniture 1,200

    Postage and Shipping 400

    Professional Development 2,500

    Advertising and Promotion 6,400

    Subscriptions and Dues 1,600

    Equipment and Business Insurance 1,200

    Health Insurance / Deductibles / Copays 6,000

    This will be going up pretty soon due to AHCA (Obama Care)

    Legal and Accounting Services 1,200

    Taxes and Licenses (Business and Self-Employment) 16,000
    This pays for State disability, SSI, Medicare, Fed & State(s) Income tax which is about 35-45%
    It doesn’t include the fact in California Gas tax is 38% not including local taxes for some cities.

    Office Assistance (Payroll, Answering Service, Intern, etc.) 6,000

    Utilities 2,700

    Travel and Entertainment 7,400


    Desired Annual Salary 40,000.00

    Non-assignment Income 5,000

    Number of Days You Can Bill Per Year 100

    This is the number of days the avg Pro is behind the viewfinder. It doesn’t include post production work, client meetings, etc. Only looking through the view finder.


    Total Annual Expenses


    Weekly Cost of Doing Business

    $ 2,627.20

    Overhead Cost for Each Assignment Day

    $ 1,313.60

    The Typical day is 12 hours!

    Just to earn a simple salary of $40,000.00, which doesn’t leave much room for individual retirement accounts, long vacations. So if anyone wonders why the shutters closed for CPI consider the above is low overhead compared to what CPI had to fork out to keep operations going. The last time I stopped by a Sears studio, I asked who many booked appointments they had for the week, the answer was zero. That was about a year ago. Taxes in CA are pretty high, plus the region I live in has one of the highest unemployment rates in the US. The young girl who worked for one of the studios knows they pay an avg of $10/hr.

    The above numbers work out to $19.89/hr. Why do I do it, the love of telling a story.

  • Owen Carey

    yes – but a 50 year old camera was a film camera- and ALL digital cameras are designed with planned obsolescence in mind. the $5,500 top of the line digital camera i bought in 2004 couldn’t even bring in 1/10th that amount. sure great photography is made in the eye of the person behind it, and if you were still using film, you’d better be developing it all yourself because the support structure has mostly disappeared. In trying to pay off it’s bills i bet CPI can’t get half of their equipment investment back to help pay creditors. they will most likely declare banckruptcy

  • Owen Carey

    i noticed in the google ads that accompanied this link that JC Penney is still running their portrait business. the low price option is still alive apparently

  • scrappy

    “…Obama economy”??? What the hell are YOU talking about???

  • upset customer

    i paid for my portraits 4 days before they closed i have called this number they left on my voicemail for a week and have not heard back from them, of course right?! i have tried to locate a corporate number and no luck thus far

  • Seahorse

    I paid 20.00 for a yearly membership only a couple of weeks before the studio close!!! I cannot believe that they were promoting this offer right up until they closed the studios. That is crazy and I believe that they were intentionally ripping off the consumer to get as much money as they could until they closed the doors. Think I will get a fraud attorney!!

  • RavviOli

    I started working in the volume portrait industry as a traveling photographer back in 1967 when CPI was named Fact Photo. At that time Fact Photo had acquired a number of fixed portrait studios. Many of these were in the high end category while others were of the lower priced variety. In addition to these fixed studios Fact Photo had a robust traveling photography business. They served the children’s market in retail store like Sears and Montgomery Wards, while others served schools and families in churches and banks.
    Companies like CPI, and their competitors like Olin Mills, PCA, National Studios, and others all rise and fall like the ocean tides.
    If a local professional photographer can’t compete with the national chain it is HIS fault. If you can’t provide a better product or service at a price that you can afford it is your fault. While it is true that the large chains can obtain direct supplies at much cheaper prices they have a much larger percentage of cost for overhead.
    It is usually the local photographer that lacks the business skills to stay in business for any length of time.

  • Phil Brown

    Read the news. THAT Obama economy.

  • Delicia AndShawn McGill

    walmart dosent print copyrighted anythin. i tried. and yes they know cause something tells them this on their machines.

  • Danielle Heyden

    He was just making a generalization.. wow

  • Danielle Heyden

    So glad you posted this..


    So who is buying all that photography equipment?! I wouldn’t mind picking up a few lights lol

  • yolanda mott-winters
  • kssturgis62

    I am a Professional Photographer and I worked for Sears Portrait Studio in Michigan. The Downturn of professional Photographers being out done by these places, is because of what they charge. Sears went out of business because of what they did to us the Photographers. 15 minute sessions, then digital came in and they charged to much money. It is ridiculous what they charged, and then if a baby was crying get it done in 15 minutes. I am so glad they are gone. I am especially glad my district manager and other higher ups lost their jobs before we did.

    Wedding Photography I have done for over 30 years, including Videography. I have been to school for this. I am now working on getting full recognition for my digital photography work through school. I have watched Wedding Photographers charge such HIGH prices over the years and I could never figure out why. They limited their hours, they limited what people could get, they set up their packages to only allow “so many poses”. I could Shoot a whole Wedding on Film, give the bride and groom a Proof Booklet with all the shots I took. Then I would hand over all the negatives and the proof books and say here you go all for 600 dollars. I didn’t limit my time, I didn’t say this all you get. I would also give them the name and number of a good lab where they could get enlargements done at a reasonable price. I got paid for my time. I would Video tape a wedding, from the time the bride was getting ready through the ceremony and reception and do it all for 600 dollars. These other places were charging over 1,000 dollars. OUTRAGEOUS. I MADE GOOD MONEY and I DID A GREAT JOB. I was proud to able to charge what I did. There is NO REASON TO RIP PEOPLE OFF just because you shoot weddings or video tape.

    What I love today is everyone thinks because of photo shop or that they have a digital camera they are Photographers. that is a JOKE< that is what is truly hurting photographers today.

  • kssturgis62

    yeah and YOU BUY IT ONCE – my camera cost me over 3,000 dollars and my back up is around 1500 dollars. I have tripods, I have lighting equipment, but face it, a lot of what you buy at times is Unnecessary. if you were really AS GREAT as you say you are, you can do a lot of shots without all the added expense your putting into it.

    You don’t have to have anything. You chose to have it. how many laptops and cameras are you buying a year, and you get tax breaks, and you still charge to much.

    I have a laptop for PHOTOS ONLY, I don’t buy one every year.

    Oh my gosh and the cost to put pictures on line for us is cheap, and it doesn’t cost that much from the labs we use and you hike up your prices over a 100%. Please I get 8×10’s printed for what 2.00 dollars and you want me to turn around and see those 8.10’s for 40 or 60 that is nuts. that is why I had customers always, and I made really good money. Don’t sit there and say all the things you have to have and buy, and the cost, when you know if your charging what you say you are, you can make that money back on 2 Weddings at the most.

    I went to school for photography, I have my degree from college. I am still in school for my photography and I would like to see any of you be able to do “GREAT WORK” without photo shop. I have been doing this for over 30 years.

  • Jasmine

    Quality prints cost more than 2 dollars. And I don’t think it’s unnecessary to buy photography equipment, thats the difference between an amateur photographer and a professional photographer.

  • kssturgis62

    I said Some of the Equipment is UNNECESSARY, you don’t need all of the equipment that some carry around to shoot a Wedding. and Prints don’t cost more than 2 dollars. My Lab is so good and so popular, and the Customer service is so overwhelming GREAT. I just had a Sale for past Customers on 16×20’s they were selling them for 6.35 Each. Geesh, with Shipping Each person was Charged 16.00 for a 16×20, matted on a Board, they were charge 25.00 dollars. If they wanted it framed they were charge 65.00 dollars. Do not tell me that it cannot be done. Most Photographers rip people off. My Lab is amazing. They are great, they are advertised everywhere. The Most expensive thing is a full photo album. IT costs me about 250.00 to do it. My customers if they choose to have a Full Wedding Album pay 500 for it. I still do proof booklets, but I print those myself. Gees there are great Proof Albums at Walmart that you can buy in bulk, or online. Never have I ever charged more than 2,000 dollars to do a wedding. What was that for? A CD, Wedding Album, Full Coverage, and Proof Booklets. But I still called them asking them if they wanted 16×20’s and they ordered 6 !!

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    no big loss

  • Latisha Jackson

    this is really sad news since i got my daughters first photos at walmart and i also got her first christmas photos at walmart they always did a wonderful job

  • AMP

    I was in part of the clean out in most of northeastern NY. Everything but the cameras I ended up with and sold. They kept the cameras and lenses, I am assuming to liquidate. They were pretty old Olympus cameras for the most part.

  • Adam

    Sold it on eBay.

  • Photography By Hank

    Their problem was the printing I think.

  • Photography By Hank

    Sears is where I got my start back in 1988.

  • Photography By Hank

    Obama didn’t start this economy, Old Mad Bush did!!

  • Photography By Hank

    I’ve shot store promotions for 26 years. $30.00 and $35.00 pkg’s. Made a good living at it. I shot 10 days a month on average making about only $350.00 per day. I call that a good living. Had lots of time with family and friends. There is still room for the professional photographer who thinks outside of the box.