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Riding The Media Bus With Panasonic’s Perry

When you go to CEATEC or travel with one manufacturer or another during a trip to Japan you rarely have one of the top U.S. executives to ride along on the media bus and take part of the tour.

But, that’s what happened a couple of weeks ago when Bob Perry, executive VP of Panasonic Consumer Electronics North America, traveled with the U.S. media members the company invited to Japan.

In the CE version of John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express,” Perry presented opinions on the Lumix digital camera brand and the flat panel TV business.

About Lumix, Perry said that in many countries where the digital camera line competes it is “the number one or number two digital camera brand.”

In the U.S. Perry said, “it has a brand share in the single digits… with the top brands usually being Canon and Nikon.”

That may change if Perry and Panasonic have anything to say about it. Perry said Lumix has been “a secret in the U.S.” but that Panasonic plans “a significant promotional effort behind the brand.” He hinted a multi-million dollar promo push, but Perry wouldn’t provide details.

He bluntly stated that Panasonic, “has not done a good job” in the U.S. with Lumix and it needs to “differentiate Lumix” from its competitors by highlighting the brand’s technology and features.

Distribution of Lumix is through, and will continue to be, through traditional Panasonic retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, regional retailers like P.C. Richard, hh gregg, Nebraska Furniture Mart and, “those retailers that sell our full range of products,” he said, along with photo specialty chains.

Perry also answered questions and had pointed opinions on the state of the CE industry in the U.S.

“In the U.S. there are a number of brands that have left the TV business. There has also been a consolidation of retailers too,” he noted. “That means those TV brands are more important to retailers.”

About retail, he said that Panasonic is looking to tighten distribution and that the company “needs retailers who can present and demonstrate products effectively.”

As for the attrition at retail Perry stressed, “Fewer retailers is not good for the consumer or for manufacturers.”

During the visit to the AVC Networks facility Perry answered questions along with Hirotoshi Uehara, director of that group’s flat panel TV business and related areas.

Uehara said that 3D HD will be “great for movies and video games” and will also be useful in “camcorders and [digital] photos.”

Even though Panasonic is known for, and has a considerable investment in plasma, the company also has a substantial LCD business. When asked about Panasonic’s position on 3D LCD, he diplomatically said the company could produce them “for smaller screen sizes… but plasma is better for larger screens.”

Perry said that in the U.S. while the TV market is 28 million sets annually and that LCD has “a larger piece of the market” than plasma due to the smaller sized sets it sells. Plasma is around 4 million units and is growing, especially in the larger screen sizes.

He said, “We are number two in the 37-inch and over part of the market, which is the value area… the sweet spot.”

And he agreed with Uehara that 3D HD is best in larger screen sizes and that plasma is “the best technology for those larger screens. But we also sell a great deal of smaller-sized LCD TVs.”

After the AVC Networks team went through an extensive side-by-side comparison of plasma and LCD TV performance in terms on motion, contrast, “true black” and other factors, Perry commented that some retailers some retailers display plasma and LCD side-by-side and some don’t. “The challenge is the showroom lighting is bright… and is hardly like typical lighting in a home.”

He added, “LCDs are bright and bright attracts consumers.”