The Big Interview: SonyEditor - 28th September 2017
For this month’s Big Interview, Pixel got in touch with Sony UK’s Head of Photo Specialist Channel, Fred Lange and Arnaud Gutleben, Head of Digital Imaging Marketing to discuss the brand’s recent success and plans for the future
Pixel: Sony has had a great start to the year. What are your expectations for the remainder of 2017?
Fred Lange: 2016 was indeed an incredible year for us, despite the challenges we faced due to the impact of a number of external factors. After a really successful 2015, which saw a significant year on year growth in the UK market driven by the launch of α7 and RX flagship launches, in very early 2016 our Kumamoto Technology Center was hit by several earthquakes. This greatly impacted our sensor production and therefore had a detrimental impact on our stock levels and our supply, which ultimately also affected our sales. Later on in the year, the UK voted to leave the European Union, which significantly impacted all exchange rates. In addition, our competitors didn’t rest in 2016 as demonstrated by a large amount of flagship model launches throughout the year. However, despite these odds we still managed to grow our business and make it a very successful year for us. To a large extend, this can be attributed to building and maintaining very strong relationships with our photo retail partners and through strong sales of our lens and accessory systems.
So after a challenging but fruitful 2016, 2017 is looking bright. We have high ambitions and are ready to regain the momentum we lost in 2016; we are fully stocked, our sensor production has fully recovered, we are ready to re-invest in the market and re-engage in consumer activities and with the launch of our recent flagship, the α9, we are ready to show that we are still one of the strongest, growing image brands in the market. Besides our strong product proposition we also want to ensure our professional customers receive the support they need and hence we launched our Pro Support Programme last year. We are currently aspiring to expand our support for professionals to stores and servicing points throughout the UK, which is another strong focus for this year.
Which of Sony’s products has seen the most attention from retailers and enthusiasts so far this year?
Fred Lange: If you refer to GFK data you will see that the UK Imaging market is in decline by 20%. But, Sony sees huge growth opportunities in the business, especially in the enthusiast and professional area hence we try to steer our product lines into these markets. Photography has become more accessible and more popular than ever before, and the industry as a whole is becoming more specialist so we very much concentrate on our high end product systems, which consist of our range of full-frame, interchangeable products and our FE lenses and accessories.
2016 was incredibly positive for our system sales, which was one of the strongest growth areas for Sony and our retailers, which we hope will continue in 2017. By offering product lines like our interchangeable lens cameras, our incredible G Master lens range and very strong accessories such as our wireless flashes we have created a sustainable system for our retail partners and customers that position us as a competitive long term brand. In 2017, we want to further penetrate the enthusiast and professional markets, where the α9 has an important role to play and is set to revolutionise professional speed based photography.
What product ranges were you exhibiting at The Photography Show 2017 and what did you find was in high demand?
Arnaud Gutleben: This year was the third time Sony exhibited at the Photography Show in Birmingham and we love the buzz these shows create. For me this was the most interesting year. Previous years were very much about educating consumers on why to make the switch to Sony and about selling our mirrorless systems, whereas this year we saw a lot of returning customers looking for system upgrades or expansion of their current equipment. For us it’s also great to have a lot of third parties complementing our existing systems and building into them, such as our long lasting relationship with Zeiss and the newly announced partnership with Profoto. The Photography Show was a great reflection of our efforts to establish ourselves as a sustainable player in the market and convince new and old customers with our innovative developments.
How worthwhile do you find photography trade events, such as The Photography Show and NAB etc?
Fred Lange: We recognise that engaging with our retail partners and consumers at trade shows and through workshops is increasingly important and therefore dedicate a lot of resource to these events. Customers are increasingly savvy and are striving for more knowledge and insight and these platforms are a perfect way for us to engage with them. At the same time of course our portfolio of ambassadors and the number of professional photographers using our products is growing. Trade shows are a great opportunity for us to talk to our customers and to hear from them about why they love our systems. We are choosing to work with the best professionals in the industry and pick them to be part of our ambassador programme; as part of that programme they run workshops and talks to showcase how our Sony products give them the possibility to produce beautiful photography and videography.
Pixel attended the Sony Trade Show earlier this year. What kind of products did you find to cause the most interest from retailers and why do you think this is the case?
Fred Lange: Our annual trade show is a platform for us to reconvene with our retail partners and press at the beginning of each year to discuss objectives and direction for the year ahead. This year, even though we had no new announcements, it was a great opportunity to have the whole range on display and remind our retail partners about key technologies and features.
Pixel: What are your most advanced 4K products currently in the market?
Arnaud Gutleben: We increasingly find that consumers are looking for cameras with enhanced video capabilities and with 4K becoming the standard in many homes, be it TVs or Blu-ray players, offering 4K in our models is an opportunity for our retailers to sell-up and to enable our customers to shoot incredibly sharp and professional looking content. Some of our consumer cameras like the new α9 are really blurring the line between consumer and professional video products and make them a great one-stop solution for our retail partners and customers. Our professional camcorders like the FS-7 are ground-breaking innovations for professional filmmakers, and on the consumer side products such as the α7SII make professional film-making more affordable and more accessible to the everyday consumer.
We have seen tremendous growth in the 4K market, and we are positioned really well thanks to our professional broadcast division, giving us the possibility to demonstrate our product strength and offer great equipment to our retail partners.
Pixel: What are Sony’s plans for the foreseeable future?
Arnaud Gutleben: We obviously can’t comment on future releases but we believe we are in a very strong position in the market. For us as a manufacturer it’s an incredibly exciting time for the industry, and we are seeing our products change the market and its dynamics rapidly.
We’ve come a long way since we started and are now in a strong and challenging position against the most established brands in the industry. We have strong ambassador and retail partner relationships that continue to grow and provide strong support for our business. We also have the unique advantage of manufacturing all our components in-house, from lenses, to sensors to our processor algorithms, which ensure that our products are nothing short of technical excellence. Our latest announcement, the a9 is opening the door into the professional market and shows our dedication to forefront innovation and cutting-edge design. Our range now consists of 24 FE lenses, 7 full-frame mirrorless bodies and a vast selection of accessories and to quote our engineering colleagues in Tokyo “This is just the beginning.”