First Sales Results Posted: Not so Great

(news & commentary)

Canon was first to fully report their first quarter of 2015 sales results (the other Japanese companies all have fiscal years that ended March 31st, and they tend to do their annual report on results in May). 

As expected, the results Canon posted for cameras aren’t great:

  • 22% decline in ILC unit sales year to year
  • 27% decline in compact unit sales year to year
  • 30.7% decline in operational profit of the Imaging System group year to year

Curiously, Canon is more optimistic about the rest of the year:

  • 2015 ILC sales down only 9% year to year
  • 2015 compact sales down only 22% year to year
  • 2015 operational profit down 3.8% year to year

A few tidbits from their report: ILC camera sales volume grew in the US in the first quarter while it fell everywhere else; compact camera sales fell everywhere. Canon called out the 7DII as being in “solid demand,” and “high-added-value models” increasing in sales. In other words, the big problem for Canon is in lower cost, consumer-oriented cameras. As I’ve been trying to point out for some time now—yes, I’m a broken record—it’s the convenience thing that’s killing lower end sales. Solve that and you might get some sales back. Don’t solve it and the smartphone just will continue to gobble everything up like Ms. PacMan. 

I do note that Canon’s report repeats the myth about “high-added-value” low-end cameras (e.g. compacts with big zooms or big sensors) “will grow steadily.” Technically, that statement is true, but it’s what you measure the growth against that’s telling: big zoom/sensor compacts are growing in percentage of compacts sold, yes. But in terms of unit volume going out the door, no, there appears to be no increase in big zoom camera sales that can be measured. All data I’ve seen to date indicates that the big zoom cameras are holding fairly steady in unit volume (thus they become a higher percentage of compact sales), not growing. 

I’ve also been writing for some time that the camera companies will eventually all retreat to the high end. You can see that in Canon’s figures over the past few years. ILC cameras have been going up and up in terms of the dollars Canon is collecting (what they call the Value Base) to where it’s 82% of what they take in, yet it’s only 43% of the unit volume. Put another way, those compact cameras that are 57% of the number of cameras they make in unit volume are generating only 18% of the money. 

In terms of DSLRs, the current situation is that we have the 5Dr and 5Ds coming, the 1DxII almost certainly coming, and strong rumors of a 6DII and 5DIV all possible this year. It appears that Canon is doing the same thing as Nikon: shoring up their full frame camera DSLR lineup. Is that enough to change that 22% decline in ILC unit sales to only a 9% decline? Personally, I don’t think so. There must be some additional products coming to justify the new Canon forecast. Either that or Canon thinks they have some way to significantly goose Rebel and M3 sales. 

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