SAN DIEGO – Mike Fasulo, Sony Electronics U.S. president, said the company’s TV operations are changing but the focus is still on Ultra HD TV.
Under the weight of orders to reduce staff and spin-off the TV hardware business into a separate unit, Fasulo and Sony have narrowed their objectives, product lines and personnel in way that will help retailers that help Sony.
“It is absolutely not business as usual,” Fasulo told TWICE. “We had to reduce 1,000-plus people in the organization, so based solely on that volume of individuals, there’s change.”
Fasulo called the layoff process “gut-wrenching, but necessary to be sustainable and successful” in the current market climate.
Sony was forced to reduce its SKU counts by almost 50 percent across all categories of consumer electronics, including TV, he said.
In TV, Sony is now “focused on step-up and premium products, and focus is the operative word around here. We’ve been a little de-focused,” Fasulo acknowledged. “Similarly, we are focused on those dealers that are capable and interested in focusing on our step-up and premium products, and really providing a customer experience where folks understand the value and buy into it.”
He said the optimal dealer partners “should find the changes exciting, because they know when Sony gets behind something, it can drive it very strongly, and they also know that when we work with them right down to the retail floor, success occurs.”
Fasulo said dealers will not be limited to brick-andmortar- only accounts, adding that “we intend to get behind e-commerce as well.”
Sony will continue to apply its SURE and unilateral pricing programs across channels, he said, adding that Sony has not cut a dime from the programs it employs to ensure those practices “remain clean.”
The same focused strategies will apply online as in brick-and-mortar accounts, with dealers expected to merchandise and promote Sony products in new and effective ways. As an example, he pointed to a recent online real-time educational event at B&H Photo that used experts from Sony and the retail store to enlighten customers to Sony’s products and feature benefits.
Despite the cutbacks, Fasulo said Sony remains committed to maintaining its leadership position atop the 4K Ultra HD TV business.
“We are the undisputed leader of Ultra HD, so when you look at 4K Ultra HD, step-up and premium are critically important to us, and that is where a majority of our focus and investment will occur,” Fasulo said.
To promote the level of public awareness to Ultra HD, Fasulo said Sony is focused on the retail floor – providing sales training efforts and in-store demonstrations and displays to help consumers see and appreciate the difference the technology makes.
“We will actually move more trainers out of the headquarters and into the field to work with our retail partners, and we’ve hired more retail sales associates, who are folks from Sony who visit the stores to ensure the product is there, the POP is there and that the salesmen on the floor are trained.”
He defined “step-up and premium” products as televisions priced at $1,200 to $1,500 and more (a moving target as market prices decline).
He added that Sony is not interested in marketing “under-$1,000, try-to-believe- they’re-Ultra HD products.”
He said Ultra HD TV products now comprise the top tier of the Sony TV product line, with formerly premium Full- HD slotting in beneath them.
“I think it’s a great strategy because it gives the customer choice – the very best from Sony in high definition and the very best in the industry from Sony in Ultra HD TV,” Fasulo said.
As for screen sizes, Sony begins its 2014 Ultra HD assortment at 49 inches, ranging up to 79 inches with a new 84- inch “pinnacle piece.”
Pricing on the models has been set, Fasulo said, but Sony declined to release them publicly, pending a special press event planned for later in the month.