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Snap happy summer

Snap happy summer

It has been a triumphant year for the digital still camera (DSC) market with many resellers and distributors reporting record sales. During September, the market experienced its strongest volume sales since the 2002 Christmas shopping season, putting it in good stead for the forthcoming seasonal sales boom that industry pundits are tipping will be substantially bigger than last year’s.

During 2003 digital camera sales soared as prices dropped dramatically and consumers increasingly discovered the convenience of emailing photographs and posting them online.

Distributor Tech Pacific’s digital camera sales increased 50 per cent over the past 12 months, Tech Pacific’s category manager of systems, peripherals and consumables, Joshua Velling, said.

“Monthly unit sales have more than doubled from this time last year. Factors such as ease of use, affordability, quality, file transfer and versatility have increased their popularity.”

Significant price erosion over the last 12 months has been the primary catalyst behind the huge uptake in the price-sensitive consumer sector.

This price drop can largely be attributed to the increased number of vendor offerings in the market.

Cameras that cost $1500 six months ago have nearly halved in price. In October last year, consumers could buy a 1-1.5 megapixel digital camera with no optical zoom for $300. This September, they could buy a 2+ megapixel digital camera with 0-3x optical zoom for $300, according to Inform figures.

Market research company Inform found that 59 per cent of the DSCs sold through mass merchants over the last three to four months were between 3 and 5 megapixels, and about 65 per cent of DSCs sold through specialist photographic stores were between the same range.

As specs on entry-level cameras increased from around 2 megapixels to 3+, consumers moved towards the pro-sumer side of the business, HP’s market development manager for emerging products, John Gowland, said.

“Consumers are now well educated about the technology,” he said. “You don’t get customers walking in these days who are unsure about digital cameras as a concept; they walk in now and say, ‘I’m looking for this particular model’”.

Managing director of Whyalla Computer Centre, Jane Gray, said many customers were buying their second digital cameras and were looking for greater specs now that they had become familiar with the technology and understood the limitations of their early-model entry-level DSCs.

“We find that the mid-range digital cameras are selling the best at the moment,” Gray said. “Consumers can see now that they can get quite a bit more from their camera for not much more in price.

“Consumers are a lot more savvy now. They’ve seen what they can do, understand a lot more about digital photography and are opting to go up to the next level. They’re definitely going for 3+ megapixels with 3x optical zoom lenses. A couple of years ago, when a customer bought a computer, he or she would also buy a printer. Nowadays, if someone is going to buy a computer, they’re also looking to buy a multifunction printer and a digital camera. It’s in their minds before they walk in the door.”

Velling has also noticed a shift in consumer buying habits as the market matures and tech savvy users increasingly turn to the 5+ megapixels range which offers additional features such as professional lenses, Bluetooth capability and increased optical zoom.

Vendors, distributors and resellers were unanimous about where the digital still camera market’s sweetspot lies in Q4 and were confident that mid-range digital camera sales will exceed entry-level camera sales this Christmas.

“There’ll still be a strong leap in digital camera volume sales at Christmas, but it won’t be so much the sub-$300 because they’ve been around for a while now,” Inform’s Taverner said. “We’re now seeing the same trend in Australia that has occurred in the more mature European and American markets, where there was a huge boom in entry-level digital camera sales, then, as the market matured, consumers moved up a price bracket and mid-range cameras experienced a boom in sales.”

Industry pundits agreed that the sweetspot for digital cameras this Christmas was between $400 and $700.

Digital camera sales are expected to reach an all-time record this year and the same is expected this Christmas. Digital camera sales have seriously crippled film camera sales, according to Velling.

“I am expecting this Christmas to be twice as big as last year — 200 per cent bigger,” Sony Australia’s Digital Imaging product manager, Ben Smith, said. “I believe there will be more than 250,000 cameras sold into the market this November and December, with the IT channel making up about 10-15 per cent of those sales. The reason for our prediction is that digital cameras will exceed film camera sales [excluding disposable cameras] this year. Our research indicates that more people are planning on buying a DSC in the next six to 12 months than any other consumer electronics product.”

Vendors, distributors and resellers alike have launched their Christmas digital camera bundles, promotions and advertising campaigns with a vehemence that signifies how highly competitive the market has become.

There are a wide variety of digital camera bundles emerging, however the most common products bundled with both entry-level and mid-range digital cameras include memory cards, photo paper, photo printers and camera bags.

Gray said the Sony entry-level DSC bundle would be a hit this Christmas.

The Sony bundle comprises entry-level Sony a digital camera, printer, 32MB memory card, a paper pack, an ink pack and a camera bag for about $1000 retail.

She said customers could choose which camera model (Sony brand) they wanted as part of the bundle and the price would vary accordingly. Whyalla Computer Centre stocks Sony, Canon, Kodak and Nikon.

Gray said Sony digital cameras were the biggest sellers: “Sony’s specs and pricepoints are spot on.”

“You can buy a Sony digital camera with 3+ mega­pixels and 3x optical zoom lens for between $600 and $700, generally you pay a lot more for those specs on other brands,” she said.

As a member of the Leading Edge buying consortium, Whyalla Computer Centre is advertising its digital cameras in the Leading Edge Christmas catalogues which will be delivered across the Whyalla district in mid-November and early December.

Gray said that being a part of the consortium had proved invaluable to her business, not only increasing its buying power, but also providing it with advertising tools that drive business during peak consumer buying periods such as Christmas.

Tech Pacific is offering a free Targus case with any Sony DSC or Handycam digital video camera range.

Velling said it had become the distributor’s most popular digital imaging promotion and would continue through Christmas.

Tech Pacific is also running a special reseller promotion on Sony digital imaging products this Christmas. Resellers will receive a bonus Sony DPPEX5 photo printer, valued at $499, when they buy $5000 of Sony digital imaging products in November.

For the full details, including ordering codes, visit Tech Pac’s Techlink web site.

“Bonus memory, camera cases and accessories are popular offerings and across the channel, however, both retailers and independent IT resellers should focus on the up-sell on high-end cameras to steer clear of the flurry of activity and price cutting on volume movers and make additional margin,” Velling said. “Additional margin can also be made on batteries, memory, media, adaptors and other accessories where competition is also less fierce.”

Tech Pacific offers a large range of products and accessories from Sony, Kodak and HP. Velling said Tech Pac would be launching more DSC promotions in the coming weeks.

“Resellers should keep an eye out and take advantage of these promotions for internal use or to on-sell to their customer,” Velling said. “Resellers should also understand if their customers are planning to email pictures to friends or family, there is an opportunity to sell broadband services and hardware.”

HP is offering both an entry-level and mid-range DSC bundle this Christmas. The entry-level package includes the HP PhotoSmart 435 digital camera and the PhotoSmart 7260 photo printer which usually retails for $548 but will sell for $399. The mid-range package includes the HP PhotoSmart 735 digital camera and the PhotoSmart 245 photo printer which usually retails for $999 but will be selling for $799.

Gowland expects the entry-level to be the most popular package.

He said resellers would benefit from HP’s above-the-line advertising that would focus on the bundles.

“There will be a small compromise on reseller margin, however, with such a strong save message, the volume will be significantly higher,” Gowland said.

He warned that stock shortages, the Ebineezer Scrooge of Christmas sales, could also affect some resellers.

“There has been a shortage of charge-coupled devices (CCDs) for the last 12 to 18 months driven solely by digital camera sales,” Gowland said. “There is also a media shortage, that is, specific media cards. This doesn’t affect HP so much as there are eight different types of media cards on the market and HP’s cameras and photo printers are compatible with all of them — that’s HP’s unique value proposition. Other major brands are only compatible with Compact Flash and Secure Digital media cards.”


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