Today at a small gathering of journalists, Sony Electronics President and COO Phil Molyneux shared plans for the company's new retail strategy, and it's a new but familiar direction for the company.
Starting April 1st, the consumer electronics-maker will begin "unilateral" pricing in the US, which will limit the absolute minimum a retailer can charge for one of its products, and will keep that pricing consistent across stores and states. The pricing will be at parity in big box retailers as well as in Sony's stores (and online) for 140 products at the start. The hope is that it will slow the "race to the bottom" which the executive said hurt the brand in retail. "The market here is very focused on volume, and there is a push to promote products not necessarily for the value of the product, or the service, or the content, but more on a 'here's a special offer this week, how about this Mr. or Mrs. Consumer?', and I think we all got caught up in that a bit," he said.
Molyneux also stressed that Sony would be working closely with retailers on training, messaging, and appropriate store display — even down to basic details like making sure devices are in stock and display models are working.
The company will additionally be trimming product lines (in the US at least), cutting its HDTV offerings down from 40 models to 22, and shaving off models in other consumer areas such as headphones — a familiar trend for consumer electronics companies in 2012. Molyneux expressed that he feels the company can still win in places like the Android-powered Walkman media player line — even against the iPod touch — citing improved sound quality as a deciding point for users.
Molyneux stressed to us that he believes Sony has actually been hurt in retail by not playing to the brand's "premium" offerings (also referred to as "aspirational" by the company). The new strategy will play up the higher-end of the company's products instead of trying to win purely in the middle- to low-price ranges.
The company said it would also focus more on social media in marketing, and admitted it had some "tidying up" to do with respects to product naming. Still, the COO is bullish on the company's chances with its new strategy, "We want to delight consumers," he said.