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Industry Brief : Studio Portrait Icon Olan Mills Bought by Lifetouch

November 18, 2011
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Chattanooga, TN—Studio portrait icon Olan Mills was acquired by Minnesota-based Lifetouch in early November, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Olan Mills, founded in 1932, and Lifetouch, based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and started in 1936, were longtime competitors in the church directory and direct sales fields. Officials told the Free Press that Lifetouch expects to hire nearly all of Olan Mills’ 4,000 employees. Employee-owned Lifetouch has more than 22,000 employees and annual sales of more than $1 billion.

The 80-year-old Chattanooga company’s longtime chairman and chief executive, and the son of its founder, Olan Mills II, said combining the two businesses is a logical step. “Our companies share a culture of quality and service in environments that place a high value on our employees,” he said.

Olan Mills had a rich history since its 1932 beginnings, when Olan Mills, Sr., was the photographer and his wife, Mary, did artwork on the finished prints, according the company. During the digital photography age it has faced tough competition and shrinking revenue. With thousands of studio sites in Kmarts, Belks and Macy’s locations nationwide, Olan Mills sold its schools unit to Lifetouch in 1999. Twenty years ago, it was estimated in a story by the Associated Press that all the film it used each year would stretch end to end from Chattanooga to Phoenix. and


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