We are finally getting a snapshot into the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the camera industry. BCN Retail, a Japanese firm, released its March numbers for the country of Japan, which saw sales of mirrorless cameras drop 50% YoY. There are a couple of caveats with the overall numbers. First, BCN only reports numbers from a sample of online and physical retailers in Japan. Not globally.
However, the second caveat is Japan had not shuttered its economy in March as it was trying to salvage the now postponed 2020 Summer Olympics set to take place in Tokyo. The numbers clearly show consumers were pulling back hard from the marketplace, and we should expect similar data out of the Q1, and Q2 CIPA reports.
A quick look at the data shows Sony sales volume dropping 44.5%, Olympus by 54.9%, and Canon by 32.3%. If you’re looking for any silver lining, it comes from Fujifilm, which saw an uptick in sales volume YoY.
In total, the industry saw a drop of 50.5% in March, which is disastrous when compared to the 9.9% drop experienced in January.
Camera Industry in Peril
We knew as the pandemic spread in China in January that the industry was in for a rough ride. It’s already been under sustained pressure as smartphones have sapped impulse buys in the point-and-shoot market. COVID-19 is having the effect of shuttering vast swaths of the global economy. Camera friendly industries such as travel and tourism have been ground to a halt. Most countries are under some form of a lockdown.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility that 2020 will be a lost year. And for an industry that has some manufacturers barely hanging on financially, there is a good chance we will see consolidation as companies look to cut costs.
What does that mean for new mirrorless cameras? For now, it’s a wait-and-see. Fujifilm has launched the X-T4, but shipments are plagued with delays over supply chain issues related to the pandemic. Canon has the EOS R5 on deck, but shipping before late summer is wishful thinking at best.
Sony has gone radio silent on any releases, and expectations are for it to stay that way until there’s more clarity on the impacts of COVID-19 on the broader economy and society in general.
While BCN focuses on Japan, we are getting a glimpse of what will more than likely be a catastrophic year for the camera industry.