After a pronounced slowdown that started in 2009, the camera market in Romania has snapped back, encouraged by new launches and Romanians’ growing appetite for better technology. Sales figures are looking good but consumers are less likely to splash big cash without very carefully studying various offers and even resorting to specialist advice.
“The total camera market was worth EUR 16 million in the first half of 2011, which means 20 percent more than in the same period last year,” Tomohiro Nakashima, country manager for Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova and Romania at Sony Central & Southeast Europe, tells Business Review, drawing on his company’s own data.
The market has been reeling for some time due to the effects of the crisis. After an effervescent 2008, it plummeted by nearly a half (45 percent).
But following a very difficult year in 2009, the photography sector was the first that showed clear signs of recovery last year, Ciprian Hatneanu, director of retail and technology at GfK Romania, tells Business Review.
“It’s worth mentioning that the star of 2010 was the segment of digital photo frames. And 2011 also started very well for the photography sector.”
Sales of digital cameras went up by 28.6 percent in the first quarter of the year, both in the segment of compact cameras and that of DSLR cameras.
The Romanian consumer’s interest in photo products has stayed constant. In the second quarter of the year, sales continued to grow by approximately 17.7 percent compared to Q2, 2010. Sales of digital cameras and digital photo frames reached EUR 11 million in the second quarter of 2011, according to GfK estimates.
“Romanian consumers decide to buy after evaluating mainly the resolution and the optical zoom. Currently they prefer 12 MP resolution,” Cristian Laza, acquisitions director at Altex, tells BR.
The segment that has sparked most interest is that of interchangeable-lens cameras, which has posted double-digit growth rates. The growth rate in this segment is much higher than the figure for compact cameras.
Another sector that commands much attention from users is that of entry level models in the DSLR (digital single lens reflex) segment.
“As far as hybrid models are concerned, mirror-less cameras have not enjoyed particular success in Romania so far. When it comes to cameras with good technical features, it seems that the interest of the Romanian consumer is limited to DSLR and high-end compact cameras,” says Hatneanu.
“Nearly 40 percent of the volume of cameras that were sold in the first half of the year were compact cameras with a zoom between 3x and 4x. The interest of the consumer is also awakened by cameras with a zoom that is higher than 4x. Thus, a very dynamic segment was mainstream compact cameras with a zoom between 4x and 5x and high-end compact cameras with a zoom higher than 10x,” adds Hatneanu.
The display with a diagonal higher than 2.5 inches as well as models with image stabilization and face/smile detection are also popular.
Often, mainstream compact models come in a package with battery charger, cover, and/or memory card.
“Acquisitions made over the past year show that customers prefer packages with batteries and charger included. In this way the consumer saves the time that they would have invested in acquiring these products separately,” says Laza.
This is not the only thing that has changed in customer behavior in the past few years, according to market players. Since the start of the crisis, it has undergone some noticeable changes: before buying a product, especially a more expensive one, the consumer spends a lot more time than before the crisis weighing up the price-quality ratio.
“In the last three years, we’ve seen consumption decline, as expected, but things are starting to look more optimistic now. This year we believe the entire market will take a clearly positive direction,” predicts Nakashima.
“Before making a decision to buy, consumers compare prices on various websites and take care to get informed of the characteristics,” says Laza. Most consumers acquire a camera for personal use so they are interested in value over time. At the same time, there is greater price awareness, with cheaper models selling better, in line with the tough economic times.
Other factors apart from the financial crisis have also bitten into the profits of companies in this industry.
“At the beginning of this year we had a pretty difficult period, because of the devastating tsunami. We have recovered from that time and we have managed to grow in line with the market, if not even faster. We believe the increasing trend will continue until the end of this year,” says Nakashima. “We’d say that the camera business comes after the TV, VAIO and camcorder segments for Sony Romania.”
“Cameras are a major business for Sony in Romania and will continue to be a focus point for us. This year, we have launched four major imaging products, which we believe will strengthen our position on the local market even more – the new NEX and new Alpha series,” says the country manager.
On the compact camera segment, Sony has a 20-25 percent market share of the local scene.
“Even though this segment is in its beginning phase, Sony already has a market share of 60 percent on the mirror-less market in Romania, which represents 10 percent of the total market. We are confident the trend is catching on extremely fast, looking at the fast rate of adoption in more developed countries,” says Nakashima of the current situation.
He has also announced that in the coming months, Romanian consumers will be able to buy the newest Sony camera series, on the shelves from the end of September: the new NEX-5N, NEX-7 and A65 and A77.
Last week, Nikon celebrated four years of presence on the Romanian market via its authorized reseller Skin, with the introduction of the new mirror-less interchangeable lens camera system, known as the “1”. Two models have been released onto the market, the Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 J1, through which the firm enters a new market segment, cameras with an interchangeable lens.
The Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 J1 are said to be the fastest cameras in the world, three times faster than any professional DSLR, which can shoot up to 60 frames per second at maximum resolution.
The five best-sold camera brands in the Altex and Media Galaxy stores are Nikon, Sony, Canon, Samsung and Fuji, says Laza. DSLR cameras represent 4 percent of total sales.
Last year Altex sold approximately 56,000 cameras, and in the first half of this year approximately 40,000.
For retailer Flanco, the top five brands have a different aspect: Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Samsung. “When it comes to DSLR cameras, most clients prefer Nikon,” Violeta Luca, Flanco’s marketing director, tells BR.
In 2010, a total of 13,500 cameras were sold in the Flanco network. In the first half of this year, the retailer sold over 9,000 units.
Sales of compact cameras represent nearly 90 percent in the Flanco network, while professional cameras only appeal to a small segment of the pubic.