November 2020 ertonline.co.uk
The biggest challenge is being so close to the business and quickly adapting to changes as they happen. This is uncharted territory, nobody knows how to handle this and what will happen in the future.
Q: You mentioned last year that Sony was doing well in the audio category. How have you built on that this year? BE: Audio has definitely continued to do well. The true wireless market is growing massively, around 40 to 50 per cent up versus prior year. We had two new models out this year – the WF-SP800 noise cancelling and the WF-XB700. These are doing very well, but the market is shifting
quickly towards more compact true wireless models and of course Apple is dominant in this market. We are definitely trying to be a strong alternative option. There’s also the WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-
cancelling over-ear headphones [replacing the XM3 this year] to reinforce our segment. It was called the biggest headphone launch of 2020 and they have done fantastically well with amazing reviews. In speakers, particularly the premium segment of
sound bars, that’s very strong and doing well off the back of TV sales this year; the sound bar market is like 20 to 30 per cent up versus last year and we are bringing out new products regularly, like the HT-G700.
Q: What about TV? BE: When we launched the 48-inch OLED A9 it was a big surprise how successful it was. The sell-out was amazing, we can’t get enough of them. I think now people are shopping for a size, not
always for the biggest screen; it’s more about what fits on their cabinets or on their walls. This has a lot to do with the size of living rooms in the UK and 55- or 65-inch are starting to be normal sizes. And prices are coming down these days, too.
Bottom left: The WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones. The WF-SP800 in blue and the WF-XB700 in black.
OLED has a fantastic reputation as it’s such great
technology. We had several OLED replacement models come out this year – but due to COVID restrictions these were delayed slightly. We never sit still – innovation is the only way for us
to drive forward. We are also preparing our 2021 Bravia line-up and it’s more about evolution, not revolution this time around. I’m always amazed at how our engineers make our
products better and better. When it comes to picture and sound quality, the only way to compare is seeing the TV or listening to the speaker in person. You cannot demonstrate the acoustic surface audio – the sound feature on our OLEDs – very well online, but in store it’s like “wow, that’s amazing”.
Q: Do you have fears about the retail industry after this difficult year? BE: Before this year people were asking where is retail going to go? Is retail dead? I say no way. Never. We don’t want it to be dead and consumers still want to see and feel and decide
what they’re going to put in their home. However, it’s now a combination of online and store visits. Consumers are really starting to visit their local trusted stores now, they want that personal approach from staff and the local service. Online can offer some of that, but not a full five-dimensional experience. Lockdown was hard on all retailers having to close
their physical stores. But now in a strange way they are reaping the benefits of COVID-19.
Q: How is Sony supporting retailers this peak season? BE: TVs and sound bars are our biggest segments in the lead up to Christmas and the demand is amazingly high. As soon as the leaves start falling in Autumn, people start buying TVs. We are making sure we are adjusting supply fairly
among retailers. Around Black Friday and Christmas, the multiples will not be able to stock-pile because the danger of another lockdown is that stores may close again and they cannot get access to this stock. It’s all about flexibility and we need to be able to
adjust to whatever happens – that’s the biggest way we can support our retailers.
Q: What are your plans for Sony UK and Ireland moving forward? BE: It might sound strange, but it’s too early to plan for next year as so much could change before the end of this year. It will be very interesting to see what happens around Black Friday this year, as normally it’s a very big week. I think we will have a better view forward by January
or February, but as long as certain factors are still in play – COVID, Brexit, supply chain, the economy – there are a lot of big question marks in our whole planning process. If I knew all the answers I would be rich!
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