The other day a reader contacted me with some apparently dire news. His dealer had just told him that "Pentax USA has let go of all their sales staff and management."
Well, no. What happened was that ownership of Pentax by Hoya—long reported in the photo industry press—became effective five days ago, on April 1st. Ned Bunnell, the President of Pentax Imaging USA, is not only a businessman, he's also "one of us"—that is, a dedicated, longtime photographer who is passionate about all the same things we all are. So I asked him if he'd clarify. Here's some of what he told me:
"...As we’d previously announced, Pentax officially became a wholly-owned division of Hoya Corporation on April 1. As we had officially stated, and I’d commented on in one of my blog posts, being a division of Hoya will definitely help provide the funding, direction, and resources to grow our business in the United States. Our growth will require adopting new strategies and making changes to the way we do business. One crucial area of change that I immediately started to address when I became President in October was to develop a new channel strategy. In looking back, as you know we were late to enter the digital camera market, and further, we didn’t address the need to change the way we sold and supported sales of our cameras.
"What we have initiated on April 1 is shifting from a regional territory sales model (that we’d used since the the film days) to creating a new sales organization structure of 'account' teams focused on specific channels, including photo specialty, on-line, mass merchant and national distributors. The changes we are making now are really no different than those made over the past few years by our competitors and other companies in consumer electronics.
"We also had to address how selling cameras has changed, and therefore each of these new account teams will be staffed by both 'account' managers who will focus on improving our business with each channel partner, and 'sales support specialists' who will provide logistics, merchandising and training assistance. Since these new roles require pretty unique skill sets, we offered our current sales force an opportunity to apply for these new positions or accept a very generous resignation package. While many of the sales force choose to leave the company, we retained some of our staff and will be looking for new account managers and sales support reps ('Pentaxians') to help us spread the word about how great Pentax cameras are.
"I hope you can see that each of these steps we are taking is a positive step to grow our business and that our loyal customers should not fear we’ll go away.
"As I’ll be posting an update about these change on my blog, there’s no need for you to keep these comments anonymous. By the way, I’m a frequent visitor to TOP and really enjoy your writing and commentary."
Here's Ned's blog. And just for fun, here's a picture from it, taken at the Easter Hat Parade in NYC a few weeks ago, one of a number he posted on his site (K20D, 31mm Limited lens):
Reminds me of the great children's book Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman:
"Do you like my hat?"
"I do not."