This interview was conducted before the second lockdown.

‘Evolution, not revolution’


Catching up this month, Sony UK boss, Barend Ezechiels, tells Jack Cheeseman about the company’s latest generation of TV and audio products and how the characteristics of consumers this year could change the retail landscape forever.

In April last year, Barend Ezechiels took over as the Head of Sony UK and Ireland and in this exclusive interviewERT Editor, Jack Cheeseman, recently caught up with him about the challenges he has faced this year and which product areas are driving business success and ensuring Sony remains a premium brand in the sometimes turbulent electrical retail market.


Q: How have things been for you this year? Barend Ezechiels: Intense! I think our industry is quite predictable as there’s a certain flow throughout the seasons, but obviously that was hugely disrupted this year and the speed of change was enormous. There was a lot of firefighting but this showed our flexibility and creativity to make things work. Especially supporting retailers, they’re having a hard time at the moment. The UK was lagging behind in terms of taking

measures, so back in March we saw that things were starting to close down in other countries so we took

note and made our changes. We helped retailers realign and made sure stock inventory wasn’t too high. Of course, stores closed here in the UK but they

remained open in a lot of other countries. So the most drastic shift we’ve seen is to online. Looking at our TV sales in the top 10 European countries, before lockdown around 20 per cent of our business was online, then it jumped to 50 per cent online, but in the UK it went up to 90 per cent because stores were closed. And that was for about four to five weeks. Consumers realised the true convenience of online and started switching.

Q: What did this mean for Sony? BE: This whole situation is very new, so nobody knew and or even knows now what will happen in the future. We normally have a monthly cycle in our forecasting and sales processes so we increased that to weekly to review the numbers and monitor market trends. We are lucky that we have a big product portfolio

because the mix of sales changed dramatically. For example, headphones sales were up during April, May and June as people were working from home and buying a lot of new tech.

The biggest surprise, and our biggest challenge at

the same time, was the TV market. Since June, for example, TVs in the UK have been amazingly strong, 30 to 40 per cent growth in units week-on-week versus last year.

Q: What other challenges have you faced? BE: There’s still Brexit of course. It’s never really talked about at the moment but a lot of questions still remain; if there will be import duty on TVs, which still is a big possibility, then they will be around 14 per cent more expensive, so that’s a major change in the market. If that happens, it’s not good for anybody.

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