Jessops - the UK's specialist photographic retailer - believes its recent tie up with photosharing web site Snap-fish will drive up sales in its stores as customers come in to pick up prints ordered online.

Jessops chief executive Chris Langley hopes the decision to side with Hewlett-Packard's Snapfish will draw people into its stores as customers look to avoid costly postage charges and pick up pictures in person.

"We have found that the picking up prints in store side of it has been very successful.

"We weren't sure when we launched this how many people would chose this option but we have found over half are deciding to collect their prints from a Jessops store," Mr Langley added.

Jessops, which has its headquarters in Leicester, launched its HP hosted Web site in August, offering users unlimited storage for their digital snaps and the choice of having prints delivered by post or the option to pick them up from one of Jessops' UK stores, something which differentiates it from the swathe of existing web-based photosharing sites.

Printing currently accounts for around ten per cent of sales for Jessops as its 293 stores - many in the West Midlands - churn out around three million snaps a week.

That percentage is growing however as it loses out to aggressive online retailers on sales of electronics and the digital printing market balloons as people switch to online printing.

In order to take advantage of the growing digital print market, Mr Langley said Jessops was testing out a number of HP instore printing systems and kiosks in an attempt to satisfy customers' preference for while - you - wait developing.

At the moment around 100 of Jessops shops have no instore printing facilities because shops are either too small to accommodate the bulky equipment or do not attract enough customers to m erit the costs of the machines and training staff in the art of traditional chemical developing.

As a result those stores can not offer higher margin, while-you-wait developing, a void which Mr Langley says the new HP inkjet Microlabs could go some way to filling.

"Where we don't have any in store printing this gives us a viable option. We are trialling it in ten of our stores, if it works for us in theory we could role it out to a number of stores."

He added that the new technology also allows people to print higher margin specialities such as calendars and photoalbums at the same time.

"We are keen to find ways to offer new services to customers and that's where the studio product comes in because we can offer things such as photogifts, calendars and cards for customers while they wait."

HP is stepping up its photographic efforts in Europe by introducing a range of new printing systems for retailers, consumers and professionals and bringing all its photo web sites under the Snapfish umbrella.

T he Californian firm believes it can grab market share in the lucrative photomarket by linking with retailers to provide online photo sharing and in turn sell them and their customers the printing paraphernalia.

"We are talking to a number of retailers about doing a similar kind of thing," said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice-president of HP Imaging and Printing.

"We can offer something from end-to-end, right from managing the online side to the actual printing side of things and retailers see the sense of that," he added.