Panasonic Australia is heading in a new direction with the Company cutting back on traditional TV marketing for their new Smart TV and AV gear. Instead the company will market their entire product portfolio, which includes a new 2012 range of appliances and projectors, across social network sites and via selected online operators. However, they do plan to take advantage of the global Olympic sponsorship with the Nine network.In a frank interview with ChannelNews, the Company admitted their recent exercise in out sourcing their sales operation has failed with the Company now moving sales back in house for main retail accounts. Merchandising will remain with an outside company claims Steve Rust, the CEO of Panasonic Australia.
Rust also claims Panasonic Australia will not take on the sale of Sanyo TVs following the acquisition of Sanyo last year; however, they are set to merge Sanyo projectors with a new range of Panasonic projectors.
The local Japanese company is also expanding their solar offering, claiming that while the solar market is currently depressed it will come back in the future along with demand for solar storage farms that can be hidden inside a home or business and used to capture excess solar capacity.
Rust told ChannelNews that Panasonic Australia is also “ramping up” sales of Sanyo’s eco battery systems as there is “High” demand for energy efficient technology, especially batteries in Australia.
Rust admits that Panasonic has gone through a tough time due in part to a decline in sales of their plasma TVs.
He said that he was not prepared to “make losses” just to get volume in the TV market where he claims price erosion has been rampant.
The local operation was concentrating on three core product groups which include appliances, spanning both domestic and commercial air conditioning, white goods and small appliances.
TV and home entertainment systems and business-to-business systems spanning IT equipment such as their tough notebooks, commercial TV screens and projectors as well as communication systems.
Rust said revenues for the Australian operation in the 2011 to 2012 year was “around $800 million”, he said that he expects to grow revenue as he brings new categories on board such as refrigerators.
He is also planning on grabbing further share in the air conditioning market where Panasonic Australia has seen growth in the commercial market of 50% and in the consumer market of 18%.
He said that the recent acquisition of Sanyo had given Panasonic access to an expanded line up of products.
“In the projector market we have been able to take on board several new models with very little crossover or impact on our existing Panasonic range. We have also gained access to Sanyo air conditioning products for the commercial market; this is going to help us this year as the commercial market is growing while the consumer market has been impacted by the recent rains particularly in Victoria and NSW”.
In the appliance market Panasonic Australia is looking for growth from an expanded line up of new small appliances, including new white goods such as refrigerators which will be launched in the second half of 2012.
Rust admits that the job of convincing retailers to drop existing product for new products from Panasonic had been tough.
“We are confident that we have achieved our objective of building a new retail distribution network for our new range of refrigerators as we have superior econ friendly devices. Our Econavia intelligent eco-sensor feature reduces energy consumption in air conditioners we have similar technology built into our whitegoods and retailers believe this will appeal to consumers”.
“We are already #1 in microwave so white good retailers are used to dealing with Panasonic in this category”.
Rust said that they will shortly launch new high end rice cookers as well as new flatbed technology microwaves and bread maker machines which are currently experiencing “big demand”.
When asked about a lack of marketing for their new range of Smart TV’s Rust said that the Company has been investing in social networks, bloggers and YouTube.
“We have had a lot of success with social networking, we have been able to build word of mouth with selected bloggers, we recently launched a new Blu ray recorder and our social network campaign for this product resulted in a lot of awareness and demand it was also low cost marketing”.
“Marketing is changing, we built our TV brand disproportionately to our other product categories, and we are now concentrating on marketing our products across the board. When there was no price erosion with TV’s the market was good and we grew. We cannot carry on doing the same when the market is not delivering profits for manufacturers. Without the digital switchover the TV market would be in decline”.
See Panasonic sales story tomorrow.