Sony Reports Growth and Contraction

Sony still seems reluctant to share unit volume information with investors, but in their ongoing presentations to the financial community centered around the completion of their fiscal year, they've been sharing more information than before. 

bythom sony imaging

In particular, Sony Imaging disclosed their own calculated market shares based upon value (overall sales numbers). In doing so, Sony now claims:

  • 24% of the ILC market, up from 20%.
  • 23% of the ILC+lens market, up from 19%
  • 29% of the compact camera market, up from 26%
  • #1 market share in mirrorless cameras (unspecified)

Again, these are based upon overall sales numbers that can't be exactly compared, as Sony doesn't disclose the methodology and we don't have similar information from Canon and Nikon. But the overall net is that Sony is now claiming #1 market share (in dollars) for compacts, and #2 market share (in dollars) for the ILC market, including lenses. 

Overall, Sony says the entire camera market size contracted 7% while it was making those gains. 

Much more interesting is that Sony still cameras may now be driving the Imaging group. Sony's video camera sales declined 23%, though they continued to hold a 29% market share according to Sony. The video market size (according to Sony) is currently 23% the size of the still camera market. 

Thus, the 24% of the still market equalled 312b yen in sales, while the 29% of the video market equalled 87b yen in sales. No wonder the pro gear moved to the E mount.

Note also that the Sony smartphone business is now being linked into the Sony Imaging IP, but that smartphone business is having a tough time—ongoing losses and declining unit sales—and trying to drop their costs of operation down by 57% in the next two years! 

The question, of course, is how long can you make any gains in a contracting market. Now that Canon and Nikon are both pursuing the same up-market strategy, we're going to have a seriously competitive race for your dollars, I think. At the high end. 

It's not currently possible to do a direct comparison with Canon and Nikon numbers, as those companies disclose unit volume by category, but don't track specific dollar numbers to individual categories. But given Nikon's overall projection for their Imaging business for the coming year, I think it safe to say that Nikon and Sony have essentially changed places in ILC. That said, it still seems clear that the Canikony trio basically have locked down 85% or more of the ILC market. What we're seeing now is them fighting more aggressively over that big piece of the pie. All three companies are still profitable, too, even with their pessimistic forward projections of what happens to the market.

Readers of my sites now how much I believe that customer connection makes a difference. CanonUSA recently had a purge of personnel, and a lot of that happened in the Learn with Canon and other customer outreach programs. SonyUSA's still all-in with AlphaUniverse and Kando (Kando 3.0 is coming up in August, which I can't make this year because of previous commitments). NikonUSA still is pretty much doing the same as before, but it's unclear how long that will last given their cost restraints, and it wasn't what I'd call great to start with.

When you go for high-value consumers (e.g. try to charge US$2000+ for a camera body), those customers want to feel good about their expensive purchase, thus they look to the "support" they can perceive. How much does the company reach out to them proactively and directly to help them? 

I'd argue that Canon and Nikon are executing old models in this respect. It's more rah-rah and look at our pro names than here's how to do things and how to have fun with our gear (though there is some of that). I came across this gem the other day from my friend Patrick Murphy-Racey on Sony's AlphaUniverse in an article they presented on sports workflow: "For his final step, he copies the name of the first image in the file folders and adds it to a Google calendar on that day. So now he has the information in a globally searchable calendar that lives in the cloud." I'm not getting that level of information from Canon and Nikon. Nor am I getting much about the "fun" of their products, either. 

There's a sub-lesson here. For CanonUSA, go to the Learn tab on their site. For NikonUSA, go to the Education tab from their main page. For Sony, go to Alpha Universe. Every camera should have a big card at the top of the box that says "go here to learn about your new gear."

So congratulations to Sony for their results. Any positive news in the camera market is meaningful, obviously. But I don't think it really changes anything. 

We used to have a lot of fish in a big pond, with a few big fish among them. Today we have three big fish in a modest-sized pond that's getting smaller (must be global warming ;~). I don't think that's going to change much in the foreseeable future. 

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