Update (January 22, 2022 8am EST): The original version of this article (and its headline ‘Ricoh to cease mass production and sales in Japan, opting for a more direct-to-consumer and ‘workshop-like’ approach) stated Ricoh would ‘cease mass production and mass sales of its Pentax and GR camera lineups in Japan.’ This statement was derived from an inaccurate machine-translated version of the press release.
In a statement to DPReview, Ricoh Imaging Americas says ‘Ricoh will not be ceasing mass production and sales, but instead extending its current distribution in Japan with more direct-to-consumer approaches.’ This, however, appears to be in some conflict with Ricoh’s original announcement, which states ‘[Ricoh] will shift from a sales method mainly based on a distribution network via dealers to sales via the Internet to improve the efficiency of business operations’ and says the company hopes to ‘achieve optimal production that differs from the conventional model of mass production and mass sales.’ We’ve further inquired for additional details on how exactly the production and sales process will be handled in Japan starting April 1, 2022.
Ricoh Japan has announced that it is it’s planning to take a new approach to manufacturing and selling its Pentax and GR camera lineups in Japan starting April 1, 2022. According to the announcement, Ricoh ‘will shift from a sales method mainly based on a distribution network via dealers to sales via the Internet to improve the efficiency of business operations.’
In an announcement posted to Ricoh Japan’s website, Ricoh president, Noboru Akabane, says the company ‘will renew its manufacturing and sales structure in Japan on April 1, 2022, to enhance the value of its two brands, PENTAX and GR.’ He further elaborates on the decision in the following message to consumers (and presumably shareholders as well):
‘Up until now, we have conducted our business while sensing the strong feelings of our customers toward the PENTAX and GR brands. While we would like to respond to their wishes as much as possible, we feel that the conventional way of doing business, which is based on mass production and mass sales, is becoming unfriendly to the recent changes in the market environment.’
This transition from a more mass-production and mass sales approach 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 ‘studio-style’ 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 relationships with customers using “digital” methods and “studio-style” manufacturing.’ The announcement also says it plans to ‘expand opportunities for customers throughout Japan to experience a wide range of PENTAX/GR cameras and products.,’ 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 a sales method mainly based on a distribution network via dealers to sales via the Internet to improve the efficiency of business operations. In addition to our own direct sales sites, we will open directly managed malls in major marketplaces to expand opportunities and venues for direct connection between Ricoh Imaging and customers.’ 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 ‘will reflect their voices in our manufacturing more than ever before, aiming to provide products that are more attractive 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.