By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Pioneer Australia is in the process of rebuilding and consolidating its channel relationships, with more focus on sell through to consumers, and less focus on market share and volume. Chris Kotis, who heads up Pioneer’s sales and marketing division, told today that restoring confidence in the Pioneer brand was a key part of his ongoing plans.

This strategy direction was revealed at the same time as Pioneer’s sales figures for the first quarter of the Japanese financial year (April-June 2009). Pioneer reported that over this 3-month period, sat-nav sales rose 38 per cent and Blu-ray increased 22 per cent. The introduction of digital radio has also been successful for Pioneer, with the Pure brand of receivers selling well in capital cities.

This year has not been all good news for the brand with a premium reputation, though. Earlier this year, the local office experienced staff losses, and those staff that were retained endured rumouring and speculation that the office was set to close. These inaccurate reports, coupled with Pioneer’s withdrawal from the plasma market, dented retail level confidence in the brand. Kotis is now working hard to rectify this.

“We’re doing quite a bit of work around our relationships with the trade,” said a refreshingly honest Kotis. “I’d suggest that we’ve certainly got a lot of work to do to rebuild some confidence.

“One of the major changes of the organisation is we are [now] very focused on each channel partner individually, and we are working with each of those to develop longer term business plans. In the past, we would have been criticised for the short term approach. We are very much now focused on rolling 12 months plans with our customer, so that we have more visibility [and] we have more certainty about what both parties are doing.

“We’re seeing very positive signs in the early stages, where the results we have had for the first quarter certainly have exceeded expectations, and I think that’s because we’re starting to make some inroads with those channel partners.”

When asked to identify where Pioneer had strayed in the last few years, Kotis identified a move towards a focus on volume and market share. He said that this was changing rapidly, and that the focus in now squarely on customer service and consumer satisfaction.

“We’re really looking at improvement in customer service; the way in which we supply products to these customers, and making sure that we get forward planning in place. We’re trying to make sure we’ve got a solid distribution base, that we support customers with a core range of products and really stay focused on that.

“From a marketing and branding perspective, we’re really looking at consumer-geared activities, rather than sell-in initiatives; really helping to support the sell-through of our products across retail customers.”

Kotis summarised this strategy by saying that Pioneer was “going back to basics”. He said this was typified by a culture of making sure stock was available when needed, being market competitive and maintaining a high level of customer service.