‘No plasma, no Pioneer’ – No way

By Patrick Avenell

MELBOURNE, VIC & SYDNEY, NSW: From dire predictions of imminent doom to gradual recovery and now ongoing profitability, Pioneer’s local office has shown itself to be the Lazarus of the local industry. At the end of 2008 and the start of this year, turmoil in the ranks, both globally and locally, led to speculation the doors may be closed permanently, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the plasma withdrawal and staff losses, Pioneer Australia is again pioneering its own destiny.

“There’s been significant changes at Pioneer over the last 12 to 18 months. Plasma was probably the last big announcement, along with the restructure, and with that there came some doubters out there saying, ‘no plasma, no Pioneer’,” said media manager Michael Broadhurst.

There definitely were nerves amongst staff and apprehension amongst retailers. Current.com.au understands that the misreporting of the office closing adversely affected the staff enormously. This was back at the start of the global financial crisis’ impact on Australia, and the fear as to the depth of the recession, and the prospect of facing this jobless, was an unnecessary side effect of this wayward coverage.

Broadhurst explained that whilst things were not as bad as some would have it, things weren’t perfect either, and changes had to be made.

“We implemented changes to ensure the business had its greatest chance of longevity by changing our focus not only from a product point of view, but from a staffing point of view across the board.”

Pioneer sales and marketing manager Chris Kotis agrees. He said that a focus had to be on profitable product lines, even if that meant withdrawing Pioneer’s critically acclaimed plasma panels.

“The driver behind the withdrawal from plasma was very much about profitability and the lines that we do have now and the categories we are competing in, there’s a real focus on profitability,” he said.

One of these profitable lines is the Pure digital radios Pioneer is distributing as part of its new partnership agreement. There were many doubters as to viability of digital radio, but this new category is establishing itself quickly as a genuine profit-maker for suppliers and retailers. Broadhurst admitted Pioneer itself underestimated its appeal.

“We always knew it was going to be popular, but how quickly it’s taken off, in terms of its popularity, [we’re] definitely surprised,” he said.

“One of the questions we’re constantly asked is, ‘How many units did you think you would sell in the first 12 months?’, and it was like ‘How long’s a piece of string?’: nobody really could tell.

“Certainly the way the commercial radio networks have got behind it and the suppliers have got behind it, it’s been a big push and it’s been a real success story.”

Other product lines currently proving profitable for Pioneer include its in-car navigation range and its pro-DJ business.

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