FANTASTIC ASSIST MILAN (AP): Gonzalo Higuain is coming back into form at just the right time for Juventus. Higuain hadn’t scored for five matches before netting two against former club Napoli midweek as Juventus progressed to the Italian Cup final. And the forward netted another double to fire the Bianconeri past Chievo Verona 2-0 in Serie A yesterday. Juventus moved nine points clear of second-placed Roma, who visit Bologna today. Massimiliano Allegri will be hoping HiguaÌn can make it three out of three when Juventus host Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday. “It will be a very difficult match in the Champions League. We’re facing a really great team, but we have to remain calm and get to it in top condition,” Higuain said. “As we respect them, they respect us, too.” He broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute, thanks to a fantastic assist from Paulo Dybala, who skipped down the right flank before pulling back for his teammate to fire into the far bottom corner. He had other chances to score before he finally got his second, six minutes from time, after more good work from Dybala in picking out Stephan Lichtsteiner, who crossed for HiguaÌn to control and curl into the bottom right corner. It was Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon’s 616th Serie A appearance, moving him to second on the all-time list behind Paolo Maldini, who retired after 647. Other results: Atalanta 1 Sassuolo 1; Empoli 1 Pescara 1.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – More Americans than ever are wearing their photographs. Or eating them. Or showcasing them on calendars, greeting cards and china plates. In the versatile digital age, picture-bearing merchandise is a booming segment of the photo-printing market – and a lucrative one, too. Now the mostly online arena appears poised to gravitate big-time to the corner pharmacy. Scores of online players – led by Shutterfly Inc., Eastman Kodak Co.’s KodakGallery.com and Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Snapfish.com – tout a variety of photo novelties, from laser-etched crystal ornaments to personalized postcards, key rings, T-shirts, purses, mugs, mousepads, birthday cakes and lollipops. Kodak and Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp., which divided up the traditional film market, are unveiling new technologies and partnerships designed to counter eroding profits from film processing by reeling in custom-photo customers via retail channels. But the blossoming of often-pricey alternatives, from photo apparel to putting computer reproductions of images onto posters, Jacuzzi tiles, furniture and tombstones, drove an 11 percent jump in overall revenues from $9.9 billion in 2005 to $11.1 billion in 2006, Delis said. The latest number includes $6.7 billion in sales of digital cameras, which analysts say have landed in almost 60 percent of America’s 110 million households. Prices run from $13.99 for a photo mug to $49.99 for a sterling necklace containing a picture of a loved one. Prices are $39.99 for a 20-picture photo book and $34.99 for a teddy bear wearing a custom-photo sweat shirt. Redwood City-based Shutterfly, which generated $40 million in fourth-quarter sales of personalized products such as photo-adorned necklaces and handbags, is the biggest online player, with a 25 percent share, said analyst Chris Chute of IDC Corp. Its most popular holiday item was a photo-collage card that can carry up to nine pictures. “We sold tens and tens of millions of them,” said Chief Executive Jeffrey Housenbold, boasting gross profit margins of more than 50 percent. “We give away most of our services, and we make money when people print. There’s a big trend that people don’t want to just have the same generic jewelry or the same generic card. “There’s just inherent limitation as to what you can do in retail,” Housenbold added. “You don’t have the creative choices, the high-quality user experience. And you don’t have the time or the convenience when you’re in retail.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! U.S. sales in the specialty market – counting online and retail – jumped 50 percent to an estimated $694 million in 2006 from $461 million in 2005 and could reach $951 million this year and $1.2 billion in 2008, according to Photo Marketing Association International, a trade group whose annual convention opens Thursday in Las Vegas. “The photo industry is desperately looking for ways to replace the money lost to lower volumes and lower prices for basic 4-by-6-inch prints,” said Alan Bullock, a consumer-imaging analyst at InfoTrends Inc. “There’s a whole slew of products out there generating higher margins than 4-by-6 prints ever did. When people see one for the first time, they go, `Wow, that’s really cool!”‘ The swift transition to a world without film triggered a slide in the overall number of snapshots converted into prints. Digital and film images made at home or ordered from retailers and Web sites fell from a peak of 30.3 billion in 2000 to 26.6 billion in 2006 and could bottom out at around 22.5 billion by 2009, predicted Dimitrios Delis, research director at the Jackson, Mich.-based Photo Marketing Association.