SAN DIEGO –
Mike Fasulo, Sony Electronics’ executive
VP who is head of its sales organization, took to
the road recently for an extensive tour of the company’s
retail partners and learned a lot about his brand
and the state of CE retailing today.
TWICE found out about this tour, the bulk of which
began in late May to late June and concluded with
one visit a couple of weeks ago, when meeting with
Fasulo at the Progressive Retailers Organization
(PRO Group) meeting in early May.
Fasulo visited more than 20 retailers and 30 stores
throughout the tour, which included Sony’s new head
of sell-in sales, Brennan Mullin. The trip included
“all channels and types of retailers, from national to
direct, from club, mass, online to CE and specialty
stores,” as well as Sony’s own stores.
In this exclusive TWICE interview on the trip, Fasulo
detailed what he hoped to accomplish and what
he learned along the way.
Why did you embark on this tour? Have
you or Sony ever done a tour like this before?
CE retailers are now in the business of
handling a lot of change and transition. Given the enterprise
changes we’ve made in programming, UPP
[universal pricing program] and organizational alignment,
I felt a personal visit from me to each retailer
was appropriate. This all follows on the heels of the
one-on-one phone conversations I had with each retailer
when we announced these changes.
I didn’t want our partners to learn of these changes
from trade or consumer media. That said, this did set
some precedents. I regularly visit with retailers and always
visit the stores, but this is the first for me to go
on the road for four consecutive weeks and meet with
more than 20 retailers with 30 plus store visits. It gives
you an appreciation of just how large the U.S. is.
What were the big surprises you learned
on the road? What did you learn based on your trip
that you have changed, or will change soon?
I was not as surprised on this tour as
my views of the challenges our industry faces were affirmed, if that answers your question.
There were a lot of common themes, a
lot of shared ground. Profitability was a
common discussion, as was the need
for change leadership, which is precisely
what Sony has initiated. Execution
at retail was, at time and at points,
more impaired than I had anticipated,
which led me to speed up our focus
and resources of sell-out or support to
the selling floors.
What did you learn about
the current condition of the Sony
I learned that both our retail
partners and consumers continue to
have a strong affinity to Sony. With our
retail partners, it was clear and consistent
that they want Sony back in the No.
1 share position and would like to see
[Sony] compete more aggressively.
They also acknowledged and understood
that our goals were established
to support both the retailer and Sony,
making profit while providing the consumer
with a great and delightful experience.
To that point, while it is has
come with some pain, they recognized
why we’ve moved from a pay-for-participation
to a pay-for-performance model,
specifically as it relates to the retailfloor
Additionally, we have committed to
— and are demonstrating a desire to
partner with them on — improvements
and not simply penalizing them for violations.
It is as tough for the retailers
as for the vendor to keep pace with
change and volatility but unfortunately
the victim has become the consumer.
We must excite the customer again
about the possibilities of our industry’s
products and not simply compete for
dollars at the expense of value.
Several retailers have told
us that they like Sony’s UPP program –
what reaction did you get from retailers
on your program?
They have almost universally applauded
our approach and have asked that
we expand the assortment under SURE
[Sony Unified Resale Execution].
Should we expect changes
in the UPP program — more products
covered for instance — by the fourth
Yes. We have already expanded
from 140 SKUs on SURE to
more than 160 and this will continue to
expand. That said, not all products will
be SURE and, at the appropriate endof-
life cycles, we will remove them from
What was the retail reaction
to other UPP or similar type programs
put in place this year?
Again, there was general
support for UPP across brands and
categories from most retailers. The
question they are struggling with is
how disciplined vendors will be in
sustaining UPP during tough and promotional
periods and when market
They appear confident with Sony’s
approach and commitment, realize we
are serious about profit and customer
experience, and see that we’re not willing
to focus on market share at any
cost. They also acknowledge this does
improve the customer experience and
allows them to focus on their strengths
We are partnering with the retailer
on the best way to provide a better customer
experience rather than being irresponsible
and leaving it to the retailer
to figure it out alone.
In late July, what does the
holiday sales season look like?
I have mixed views on this
holiday for three main reasons: The
presidential campaign year will dominate
the airwaves and make it difficult
to break through with CE media. One
option is to deploy alternative vehicles,
such as digital, experiential, social and
local, to name a few.
Second, if our industry continues to
drive the TV “race to the bottom,” we
will not only have a tough season from
a revenue base but will also be selling
our consumer short on some of the
most advanced features and benefits
they will not demo, never mind enjoy.
In a period where we all know replacement
sales are soft, we should be offering
compelling featured products that
excite and stimulate intent to buy.
And third, we have the opportunity
to have a very strong season given
the vast number of new and exciting
products in market and coming to
market across multiple categories. A
few would be Vaio/PC with Windows
8, touchscreen technology, 4K for the
home, premium audio, fashion and
headphones, great advancements
in imaging, and, of course, Android-
based OS products.