Queenstown firm’s world domination

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It’s a kind of magic – a souvenir-photo firm founded in New Zealand’s tourism capital has just become the largest of its kind in the world.

Already a global business, Magic Memories last month took a quantum leap by swallowing its biggest American rival.

Magic Memories, founded by Queenstowners John Wikstrom and Stu Norris 22 years ago, takes photos and videos of visitors enjoying the world’s most famous tourist attractions like Australia’s Sea World and Movie World, Madame Tussauds in England and Football Club Barcelona in Spain.

Already operating in 10 countries, it had also started cracking the United States market where its 15 attraction partners include Hershey’s Chocolate World and Legoland which each have more visitors per year than the whole of NZ.

However, last month, by buying long-established US company SharpShooter Imaging, it suddenly acquired another 99 North American attraction partners.

These include mega-attractions like San Diego Zoo, Boston Red Sox, Radio City Music Hall and CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.

As a result, Magic Memories now has 186 sites around the world, employs about 2000 staff, and has a staggering 100 million customers a year.

“We capture 300 million images of those 100 million people, per year,” company president Wikstrom says.

“We create the most memories for the most customers on the planet in our sector.”

He moved with his family to the US last year to drive business in the world’s largest attractions market.

“Even though we were winning good business in the US, ‘cos we’ve done so much good investment in design and innovation, you’re still a really little fish.

“In the US, you’ve got to be big to be better.”

SharpShooter Imaging executive director Paul Lane, who visited Queenstown for the first time last week for a shareholders’ meeting, says the two companies could have kept “slugging it out” in the US.

“John probably would have taken a few accounts from us, we would probably have kept him from getting some.

“But we’ve both brought value that the other needed.

“What’s really great about this deal is it’s truly a ‘1+1=3’.

“Now we’ve got a global enterprise with a very strong footprint and great teams of people, we’re the industry leader and we’re really poised to take our industry to new heights.”

Lane says his company was impressed that Magic Memories “brought to the table certain innovations through John’s creativity and his gift with design that really escaped SharpShooter”.

Wikstrom says his company’s key goal is “taking more pictures of more people, more often”, which also financially benefits their attraction partners.

He says Queenstown’s still home, with local attraction partners like Shotover Jet and KJet, and a head office that “still supports the rest of the world in key things like finance, logistics support and design”.

“We’re investing in more people in NZ and Australia.”

He adds that NZ Trade & Enterprise has provided “wicked support” for the company’s global expansion.

Last year, Magic Memories was supreme winner of the NZ International Business Awards, and Wikstrom was NZ’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the services category.

scoop@scene.co.nz