Ricoh Japan has announced that it is ceasing mass production and mass sales of its Pentax and GR camera lineups in Japan, opting instead for direct-to-consumer sales through ‘digital methods.’
In an announcement posted to Ricoh Japan’s website, Ricoh president, Noboru Akabane, says the company ‘will revamp its manufacturing system for the digital camera business and sales in Japan on April 1, 2022.’ He further elaborates on the decision in the following message to consumers (and presumably shareholders as well):
‘Until now, we have been doing business while feeling the strong feelings of our customers for PENTAX and GR brands. While I would like to respond to that thought as much as possible, I feel that the conventional method based on mass production and mass sales is becoming unfamiliar with the recent changes in the market environment.’
This transition consists of two distinct challenges, according to the announcement. The first is building a digital platform to ‘stay close to customers’ without a physical presence. The second is to rethink manufacturing, looking at product development and production as more of a ‘workshop-like’ experience.
|Ricoh’s GR IIIx compact camera.|
Ricoh elaborates on how it plans to approach both of these challenges, starting first with its customer relations through digital platforms. Ricoh says its plan is to ‘strengthen Ricoh Imaging and the online/offline contacts between customers more than ever before, and build a co-creation community where we can connect with each customer and activate mutual communication.’ The announcement also says it plans to ‘expand the opportunity to experience a wide range of PENTAX/GR cameras and products to customers all over Japan,’ which sounds more like Ricoh will be offering pop-up style experiences for customers to try out Ricoh’s latest offerings.
|Ricoh’s new K-3 III DSLR.|
As for its production plans, Ricoh says it ‘will shift from sales methods centered on distribution networks via dealers to sales through the Internet to improve the efficiency of business operations’ and says that ‘In addition to our own EC direct sales site, we also have directly managed malls in major marketplaces to expand opportunities and places where Ricoh Imaging and customers can directly connect.’ If this sounds a little familiar, that’s because it’s similar to the approach Leica takes, as PetaPixel pointed out, in that most Leica sales either happen through Leica’s official online shop or through one of its many global stores, each of which presents a unique experience with plenty of equipment, both new and historical, to look at and spend some hands-on time with.
By interacting with customers in a more direct, personal manner, Ricoh says it ‘aim[s] to reflect the customer’s voice in manufacturing more than ever and provide more attractive products to customers.’
At this time, these changes appear to be limited to the Japanese market. We have contact Ricoh for further clarification on whether this method will be replicated across the globe, but at the time of publishing have not received a response.