Cameras – Picture perfect

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Last year it was widely speculated that the digital camera market would experience its first real challenge, as purchases for first-time buyers had peaked, and that 2007 would see a decline in sales. So, have the predictions come true?
Steve Reid, senior account manager at GfK, explains: “Both compact and Digital SLR (DSLR) sectors performed well in 2007 with strong volume sales. Compact value suffered due to a declining average price. In December 2007, the average selling price of a digital compact camera was £99. This has risen to £112 in January 2008, but this is down almost 13% on January 2007, which demonstrates how competitive pricing has become in this sector over the last 13 months”.
He goes on to outline some encouraging news for the burgeoning DSLR camera sector: “Due to the launch of some pricier DSLR in 2007, the average price has remained positive in this sector and supports its positive value growth. DSLR is the sector worth watching in 2008 as it has had very positive growth in sales over the last year. There is a strong mix of entry level models at a good price for those new to SLR photography and advanced models for the more experienced user stepping up a grade. It is a popular and accessible choice for anyone becoming more serious about photography”.
Social networking
As with any product sector, social trends exert a major influence, and the phenomenal growth in popularity of social networking and photo sharing websites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Flickr, has widened the customer base for digital cameras.
“Consumers today have an influence on the products that consumers are purchasing. They are often more widely travelled and more experienced but they are time poor. They do not have time to share images in the traditional way and therefore social networking sites are hugely popular for quickly sharing and enjoying memories with friends”, says Cam Nguyen, product manager for digital still cameras at Sony UK.
Understanding the opportunity presented by this trend, Panasonic has introduced MyPlace – an online photo-sharing community which enables users to post pictures of their favourite places, and to comment on them. The website also offers users the chance to win a camera.
Despite the introduction of higher spec cameras on mobile phones, the digital still camera market hasn’t really suffered as a result. Sony’s Cam Nguyen even suggests that this is actually a positive trend for the camera industry, as the popularity of camera phones among younger consumers means that they are more educated about camera technology at an earlier age.
The latest products
Consumers require cameras that take quality shots with the camera doing as much of the work for them as possible. Panasonic has developed Advanced Intelligent Auto, which will be available on the DMC-TZ5 and DMC-FX35. This feature adds Intelligent Contrast Control and Digital Red-Eye Reduction to the automatic function for improved photos. The company predicts that cameras with wide angle lenses will be popular in 2008.
Sony’s W Series models offer numerous features, such as a wide angle lens, along with a high-definition output.
Many consumers now require something a little more sophisticated than the classic compact camera, and therefore turn to Digital-SLR models, traditionally associated with professional photographers. Several well-established camera firms such as Olympus, Nikon and Canon offer entry-level DSLR cameras, while Sony, a relative newcomer to the sector introduced its latest base level DSLR this year – the competitively-priced Alpha A200. Replacing the previous model (the A100), the new 10.2-megapixel camera boasts the improved Super SteadyShot moving sensor image stabilisation system, faster focusing and shooting speed and a new, more ergonomic body.
Add-on sales
The digital camera market provides a huge opportunity for add-on sales as there is a wide range of accessories available. Power-hungry cameras require a lot of batteries, so always make sure that these are highly visible and displayed alongside any cameras. There is also huge potential for selling home image printers, as well as lens, tripods and cases. Digital photo frames have also become extremely popular, particularly as gifts, with Toshiba and Philips, among others, both producing models.
Another option for increasing revenue is camera insurance. Pier Insurance’s gadget cover insurance policies include bespoke camera policies, starting from as little as £1.99.
Stuart Turner of Pier Insurance comments: “We believe our policies will provide much needed new revenue streams for independents and we look forward to further building our relationships within this market”.
Indie support
Independent retailers are vital to the digital camera market, and as such, many manufacturers have introduced initiatives to support them in selling their products. For example, Panasonic has developed an in-store demonstration kit that contains a camera, camcorder, photo printer and LCD monitor. Ben Holmes, marketing assistant for Lumix at Panasonic explains the maker’s other initiatives: “Panasonic is continually investing in training retail. Currently it has a training roadshow travelling the length of the country, presenting its new products to hundreds of retail outlets, equipping them with all the knowledge they need.
“Panasonic has also introduced an initiative where sales staff accrue points when they sell a Lumix product. When they have enough points they can exchange them for Lumix products”.
Sony is also currently working on an integrated campaign for digital imaging.
In conclusion, it’s important for retailers to read up on all the latest camera features in order to benefit from those all-important second and third-time purchases. Stocking up on increasingly popular DSLR models may also provide an advantage over the competition.

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