One of the distinguishing features of this years Digital Show was the extent to which exhibitors were selling product direct from their stands.
While sales from stands was an option for exhibitors last year, the major camera companies chose not to do so, leaving the field to the B2B exhibitors, including the professional suppliers and accessory suppliers. This year saw Canon and Nikon very much open for business.
Other exhibitors such as CR Kennedy and Maxwell in the enthusiast sector, and Dragon Image (professional lighting, etc) focused their offerings on clearance items or accessories.
Adeal adopted another approach, inviting three retailers onto the stand to handle sales, each for one day of the show.
Just down the aisle from Nikon and Canon, Olympus was among the exhibitors who chose not to sell direct to consumers at all.
‘We would rather work with retailers so we have their support,’ Olympus Imaging Australia’s sales and marketing manager, Joe Tizzone told Photo Counter. The lack of selling from the Olympus stand didn’t seem to dampen interest, with the new OM-D EM1 and its full range of accessories consistently attracting crowds on to the stand.
By contrast to Olympus, market leader Canon was the most overt and aggressive retailer at the show, with a ‘Canon Shop’ wall inside the entrance to the stand urging show attendees to ‘Take Canon home with you today’ and a range of show specials priced well under RRP. (Although Canon claims it does not publish RRPs.)
In addition Canon was also offering discounts from its online store; its Canon Academy photo course business; Photo Pico, its print services business; and promoting the new Image management service it will be offering as a separate consumer business next year.
Across the aisle, Nikon also had cameras and lenses on sale, but retailing was less a feature of the stand.
The decision by Canon to retail from the stand prompted debate during the Thursday PMA Convention session, featuring a panel of senior photo industry CEOs and managing directors and Canon’s senior category manager, Simon Russell, who substituted for Consumer Imaging division director, Jason Mclean after he withdrew.
In response to a question form the audience, Mr Russell confirmed that Canon would indeed be retailing from its exhibition stand: ‘I suppose the core of our philosophy is that we want to put the consumer first and give the consumer the choice,’ he said, going on to say that Canon was very proud of its marketing communications efforts over the last two years in driving consumers into stores ‘to drive local value.’
‘At the same time we have offers from all major retailers on the stand as well,’ he added.
Mr Russell was asked by John Paxton whether Canon had informed local retailers that it intended to retail from the exhibition stand.
‘We’ve consulted and spoken with all retailers to make them aware that we would be selling here at the show,’ he said, adding once again that retailers were offered the opportunity to have offers on the stand.
However several local retailers Photo Counter spoke to questioned whether local retailers were in fact consulted.
The retailers on the panel, Nic Peasley (Ted’s Cameras), Nigel Roper (Camera House) and John Paxton (Paxtons) were then asked for their views on Canon retailing direct from its show stand.
‘We had a meeting in America a couple of years ago with some specialists,’ said Nic Peasley. ‘And they all said that their biggest competitor was their suppliers. You would hope it doesn’t happen in this country, and I recognise all of our suppliers have supported us financially in store innovation, store builds and advertising, and we are very grateful for that. But you get to the point where you are a wholesaler and we are a retailer and there’s a clear distinction…’.
From the audience Phil Gresham (Fotofast, Brisbane) asked Canon’s Simon Russell: ‘If retailers step up to mark at future shows if we are to have them, would you then not sell at show if there were enough of your key retailers at the show offering you products?’
‘I think that’s definitely something we would consider in the future,’ he responded.
John Paxton was asked whether he would consider importing Canon cameras in the light of Canon’s increasingly aggressive moves into the retail channel, to which Nigel Roper jumped in an replied:
‘I guess there has been a lot of discussion by retailers around the country about importing directly and obviously on the other hand you would prefer not to if you have a good relationship with your suppliers.
‘The problem is, suppliers are getting closer and closer to the retail channel by selling direct on the website and now selling to the show.
‘We sell in our stores and as a result of that the consumer then can go on these supplier websites. The suppliers then get a database from our customers, so there’s a lot of issues there, and I guess the question for the future is – are suppliers and retailers getting closer together or are we getting further apart?
‘I’m not sure on that.’
‘We do what we do you do and you should probably do what you do,’ Mr Peasley advised Simon Russell.
Another comment from the floor followed:
‘It is a bit of a kick in the teeth when we bring the customer into our store, we do the job, we sell the product and sign them up for a wholesale promotion or whatever, and then the next step is they [the suppliers] will direct market to our customer.
‘We gave them that customer in the first place. At the show it’s the same philosophy. If you want to be retailers, be retailers. But – we are better retailers than the wholesale department.
The final word went to Darren Spargo, Pakenham Photo Electronics who commented on the contradiction between Canon wanting to give consumers great choice and yet choosing not to supply some retailers: ‘I’m horrified and quite upset, Simon. You want to sell direct to the consumers and yet many of us as independent small retailers have been pushed through an ex-distribution channel that makes it very difficult to service our customers.
‘We used to be able to contact a supplier and know whether we had stock to purchase or not. Now between the customer’s enquiry and being able to make the sale we’ve got two, three, five different distributors you try and push us through.
‘Most of the time when you go looking for the accessories we are all talking about being such an important part of us being able to make a margin, half the distributors don’t even carry a full range of your accessories.
‘And it’s particularly difficult as an independent small retailer to continue playing this game so to James (Murray, Nikon) and Mark (Radatt, Olympus) please continue selling direct to small retailers, and I hope the companies that have elected to push us through distributors get the message.’