Ricoh USA has issued a statement saying that the changes announced by its global President apply to Japan along, and not to the North American market. The statement in full reads:
The announcement made by Ricoh Imaging Co., Ltd. on January 20, 2022 regarding a revamped approach to Ricoh’s digital camera manufacturing and distribution was specific to the local market in Japan only. “Ricoh/Pentax will not change its distribution structure in North America, and the company has significant plans and goals for the North America market this year that will utilize mass production of its products,” said Kazumichi Eguchi, President, Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation. “Customers in North America can continue to purchase Ricoh and Pentax cameras through our authorized dealers and directly via our website.”
Ricoh Europe has not as yet issued a statement on its position following the President's announcement.
Pentax and Ricoh has announced in Japan that its cameras will move from being mass-produced models to being artisan products that will only be available online, through its own website or through "directly managed malls" at major online retailers.
In an official statement from Noboru Akahane, President and CEO of Ricoh Imaging, it is reported that Ricoh will adopt a full digital sales system for the Pentax and the Ricoh GR brands from April 1 2022 by using digital methods only and promoting the attractiveness of both brands through "workshop-like" manufacturing, in essence getting rid of the traditional mass production and mass sales structures that Ricoh is currently operating.
As well as producing its own-branded digital cameras, Ricoh has been producing Pentax cameras since it bought the brand from Hoya back in 2011.
To achieve these changes, Ricoh will work on strengthening its online and offline contact between its customers and build a co-creation community and offering better options to its loyal fan base to try out Pentax and Ricoh products and building on a community lead front.
This will be achieved by shifting from its current sales distribution network via retail stores and move to internet only operation through Ricoh's own sales site. However, while they will give up on existing retailers, so you won't be able to buy a Pentax or Ricoh camera from cameras stores anymore, they will expand in major malls to offer demo events so the brand can expand on its customer relations on a more 1-to-1 basis than it has in the past.
Ricoh expects this move to online only to help them grasp the demand within the marketplace in a more detailed and customer lead approach, thus being able to implement customer feedback more regularly within their manufacturing process.
Ricoh also plans on expanding the Pentax and GR line-ups, with the Pentax models it plans to extend models through various customizations of its single-lens reflex variants, to reflect the needs of its customers and will plan to build a system that enables collaboration through online fan meetings.
The GR models will continue offering compact cameras and make a clear distinction in specs compared to its competitors by focusing on cameras that have high image quality, operability, and portability. To drum up more support for the GR models or encourage existing users to keep using GR models, Ricoh will revitalize the fan community through social media and interacting through offline events to strengthen the two-way relationship between the brand and its customers.
It is an interesting time for Ricoh Imaging, who have already announced further custom variants to its Pentax DSLR camera models, potentially offering sensors suited for black and white and astro-photography.
This could be a last attempt at a business move to try and salvage what was once very popular Pentax brand and to rejuvenate an often overlooked, but perfectly brilliant Ricoh compact camera system in the GR brand.
Only time will tell, but a brand trying to connect more to its users or potential ones is always a good thing for the industry as a whole, whether it's successful for Ricoh Imaging, time will tell…