Welcome to Influencers, our annual series that speaks with the heads of retailers, suppliers and industry bodies to find out what is happening in appliances and electronics and how different companies are shaping its future.

Paul Reid is the managing director at Panasonic Australia. He thinks the industry must work together to move the conversation away from ‘product and price’.

Exciting new releases: Paul Reid.
Exciting new releases: Paul Reid.

How has the first half of 2014 been for your business?

Our new products launched in the first half of 2014 have been really well accepted by our retail partners and results so far have been in line with our expectations.

We are seeing a positive shift to higher average selling prices across a number of categories in our range, such as TVs and interchangeable lens cameras.

We’ve just experienced the hottest autumn on record, which has resulted in relatively slow sell-through of heating products. However, we anticipate sales to increase now the cooler weather has hit.

The Federal Budget has also clearly had an impact on consumer confidence in recent weeks. On the whole, whilst there are clearly some challenges for the CE market, we are pleased with the way the year is progressing so far.

What are your predictions for the second half of the year?

In the TV category we can expect to see a further shift towards larger screen sizes and 4K driving value growth in the industry. We expect further development in the audio market as demand shifts to soundbars, Bluetooth streaming and high-end audio products in the lead-up to Christmas.

Unpredictable weather patterns are making forecasting the summer cooling season quite a challenge but we remain optimistic that Summer 2014/15 should deliver strong air conditioning sales.

Panasonic is looking forward to a number of exciting new product releases and marketing activities in the second half of this year.

What opportunities do you see for the electrical retailing industry?

I think the Electrical Retailing Industry has a great opportunity to gradually evolve marketing activity away from what is more often than not an argument about just ‘Product and Price’. Whilst there is no question that price is important, we are so lucky in our industry to be able to introduce a steady stream of great products filled with innovation and consumer value.

I think there is a great opportunity for retailers and suppliers to work together to find ways to more effectively promote products based on their value, not just their price. As an industry, I think we also have an opportunity to deepen our understanding of how consumer purchasing behaviour is changing. We need to make sure we are evolving at least as quickly as our consumers are!

What threats are currently present in the industry?

We expect the current dampening of consumer confidence resulting from the Federal Budget may continue through the winter months. This may lead to an overall drop in demand in the coming months. The big question is, ‘how suppliers and retailers will deal with this?’.

I expect we may see an increase in marketing expenditure and discounting across all consumer discretionary sectors. The challenge for our industry will be how to cut through the noise and present compelling messages to consumers in a tough market.

What is your favourite product of 2014 so far?

Without question the new Panasonic Lumix GH4. It’s not often a complete game-changer comes along and at Panasonic we feel very fortunate to have such a product in our hands this year. The GH4 is riding an extraordinary wave of critical acclaim from reviewers around the world. This camera is loaded with outstanding features and technologies but the ‘wow factor’ definitely lies in its hybrid nature, making it the ultimate professional tool for commercial photographers and videographers.

Panasonic Lumix GH4
Panasonic Lumix GH4.