Top 25 Imaging Dealers Report Declining Sales

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NEW YORK – In a sign of continued difficulty for the camera industry, the country’s top 25 digital imaging retailers reported another year of revenue declines from digital camera and camcorder sales for 2013, according to TWICE’s fourth annual Top 25 Digital Camera and Camcorder Retailers Report.

Collective sales of the top 25 digital imaging retail chains fell 2.1 percent to $8.19 billion (including only digital camera and camcorder revenue) from 2012’s $8.36 billion. Last year’s figures were down 1.7 percent from 2011.

In contrast, industrywide factory-level digital camera sales dropped at a much deeper 35.2 percent rate to $15.02 billion (in wholesale dollars), while U.S. factory camcorder sales plummeted 33.2 percent to $1.78 billion, according to Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates.

The 2013 top 25 digital camera and camcorder retailer revenue performance followed a 1.7 percent decline in 2012.

TWICE’s Top 25 Digital Camera and Camcorder Retailers Report was prepared with market research partner The Stevenson Company.

To help explain the decline, 2013 marked a transition into professionalization among photo enthusiasts, as sales of cheaper consumer cameras continued to decline in favor of more advanced smartphones with improved still and video image taking capability and carry everywhere convenience.

As a result, dedicated camera sales continued to gravitate to more advanced models with far greater imaging capability, including bridge-style models with ultra-zoom lenses, and interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs), like DSLRs and mirrorless compact system cameras.

But where ILCs saw a segment uptick in 2012, it registered unit sales declines during the period, according to IDC market research, causing vendors to discount pricing, such as a deep discount on the Nikon D7000 to $749 at Best Buy, to drive 2013 holiday sales.

In Best Buy’s case, such promoting helped the chain maintain its lead over second-place contender Amazon.

But Amazon played the field aggressively, showing the highest revenue growth percentage in the pack.

Where Best Buy saw its camera revenue decline 3 percent to $2.24 billion, Amazon registered an 11.8 percent revenue increase to $1.8 billion, moving in fast on the category lead.

Walmart, which specializes in value-oriented SKUs weighted heavily toward point-and-shoot models, saw its camera revenue decline 8.8 percent in the year to $1.11 billion, from $1.22 billion in 2012.

The retail segment’s most impacted dealer in 2013 was 20th-ranked Army-Air Force Exchange, which registered a 28.6 percent camera sales revenue decline to $50 million from $70 million the year before. It dropped three ranking spots. Next was seventh-ranked RadioShack, which saw its camera revenue slip 25.8 percent to $231 million, dropping one ranking position from 2012.

In total, 15 out of the top 25 camera and camcorder retailers registered category revenue declines in 2013, with 10 tallying growth.

But even for most growth leaders, the takings were small. Only Amazon showed a double-digital increase. The next biggest revenue growth leader for the year was sixth-ranked B&H Photo, which, like Amazon, generates a significantly large share of business from e-commerce volume. B&H climbed one place in the rankings on category sales revenue of $301 million, from $279 in 2012.

The top 25 saw two new merchants join the list in 2013 with National Camera Exchange & Video joining the ranks at No. 24, despite showing a 25 percent category revenue decline from 2012 to $30 million.

Also joining the list was the 25th-ranked, six-store Samy’s Camera chain, which tallied 3.4 percent growth from 2012 at $27 million in camera/camcorder revenue.

Leaving the list in 2013 was Ritz Camera, the once-mighty national photo chain that closed its doors and sold off the brand.

Also dropping out of the top 25 in 2013 was h.h.gregg, which reported just $5 million in digital camera/camcorder sales, down 62 percent from $14 million the prior year.

Dennis May, h.h.gregg president/CEO, shed some light on the change in his company’s first-quarter earnings call last August: “We have continued to rationalize our SKU counts [within consumer electronics]. … This includes rightsizing our assortments of declining product categories such as GPS, cameras and camcorders. While the CE business continues to be an important category for us, it will become a smaller piece of our overall sales mix as we continue to get into additional product categories.”

The company has elected to place greater emphasis on furniture and appliances to make up for lacking CE sales and profits.

Repeating a trend that has appeared in other CE category sales, the only retail distribution channel in the rankings to tally growth among the top 25 was consumer direct.

This points to the popularity of ordering products that don’t rely on in-store demonstrations through ecommerce, mail order and other avenues that can easily provide price/bargain comparisons. It’s also the channel where category growth leader Amazon is positioned.

The distribution class that saw the biggest drop off was electronics only stores which registered a 20.6 percent revenue decline between struggling RadioShack and Sony Stores, the latter of which is shuttering 20 of 31 outlets by the end of 2014.


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