Ricoh Imaging Co., Ltd, manufacturer of Pentax and GR cameras and lenses, is launching a new business structure based on ‘workshop-like’ manufacturing and ‘digital’ sales methods.

From 1 April, Pentax and Ricoh GR cameras will be sold directly to consumers in Japan. (Source: Ricoh Imaging.)

It seems like these changes will occur initially in the Japanese market, effective 1 April; no details have been released to cover global distribution and sales. The announcement on 20 January from President, Noboru Akahane, contained the following statement:
Until now, we have been doing business while feeling the strong feelings of our customers for the PENTAX and GR brands. While I would like to respond to that desire as much as possible, I feel that the conventional method based on mass production and mass sales is becoming less accustomed to the recent changes in the market environment.

But the activity of people taking pictures, sharing them, and having fun is rather endless. We will take on new paths together with our customers while politely responding to such diversified needs of our customers.

Ricoh Imaging takes on “two challenges”.

  • Get close to customers by making full use of “digital” methods
  • Realize “workshop-like” manufacturing

Beyond the conventional wisdom, we believe in the strong feelings of our customers for both PENTAX and GR brands, and will develop as a manufacturer that walks together and creates together.

The company has a long history of direct online sales and appears to be planning an expanded system that shifts from a distribution network via retail stores to direct-to-consumer sales via the Internet. Company-managed malls will also be setup in major marketplaces, initially in Japan, to expand opportunities and places for direct connection with customers.

No details are provided regarding changes to marketing outside of Japan, where the company is a relatively minor player in the overall camera market – although its customers tend to be very loyal to the brands. As a manufacturer of only one type of interchangeable-lens cameras, the Pentax brand is the lone hold-out in the DSLR market. Ricoh also retains a small presence in compact cameras, where the market has been decimated by competition from smartphones. As a result, current Pentax/Ricoh customers in Japan might well be willing to pay more for custom-built products.

Click here to read the complete press release (in Japanese but accessible via online translation).