By Peter Michael

For quite a number of years now, we have worked closely with our major suppliers; sharing sales data, being privy to new releases and working directly with mutual consumers. In the main, many of our suppliers are working with towards being partners — in its truest meaning.

It is disappointing to see one such valued partner, Canon, becoming a direct competitor with yesterday’s unveiling of a ‘buy now’ option on the Canon Australia web site.

Even though we have heard the following justifications from Canon previously, they still do not make sense to me:

“We see the online channel now as an existing channel in the Australian market. We’ve been watching it for a couple of years now and in the last 12 months or so it’s really accelerated. As such, Canon’s position has always been that we need to be where consumers want to buy.” (Canon Australia director of consumer imaging Jason McLean)

My response: Aren't we and other retail partners doing this?  If not, has Canon noticed deficiencies in their retailers’ online offerings?

“We’re responding to a rapidly changing retail environment by introducing an online experience that complements our existing retail network and gives those consumers who wish to make their purchases online an option to do so locally.”

My response: Aren't we and other retail partners already providing the consumer with an option to purchase locally online?

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“We are evolving in step with the global marketplace, and we are focused on attracting consumer attention to Canon and the range of options to buy locally.”

“There’s clearly a need to have a presence where all consumers choose to shop, which now includes the online environment. Ultimately we want all people to be able to choose Canon and buy with complete confidence and in a manner that suits them, whether it is from one of our authorised retail partners or directly from us from our online store.”

My response: Is there some evidence that has been shared with the industry indicating that consumers can not buy with complete confidence and in a manner that suits them from Canon’s authorised retail partners?

Changing from a supplier to being supplier/competitor does change our relationship.  This degree of change will be dictated by how Canon utilise their direct model.

We will continue to work with Canon — but not quite so closely.  On a weekly basis we have shared our stock and sales data with Canon.  Needless to say, we would not share such data with our competitors. Now that Canon is in part a competitor, we will no longer share this data.

Peter Michael is the managing director of Michaels, a fifth generation family business that has traded from the same location in Melbourne since 1916.