Japanese Camera Shipments

(news & commentary)

CIPA today released some of their preliminary information about 2013 camera sales and expectations for 2014. 

First, allow me to brag just a bit. Virtually everyone, including CIPA at one point, was predicting 2013 overall camera shipments to be in the 65-75m range. The actual number was 62.80m units. My prediction, made in April of last year was 62.92m units. I showed that prediction at more than one point during the year, including in the following graph:


In essence, the year was worse than everyone predicted, with a decline of 36% in unit volume, mostly due to compact sales collapse.

Interchangeable lens camera sales did better than compacts, but still had their first year-to-year decline since CIPA started counting in 2003, a decline of 15% to 17.1m units. Couple that with a drop in shipments of lenses, which shrank 12.1%. 

So what do CIPA members predict for 2014? 

Another decrease in overall units to 50.5m, or about another 20% shrinkage. Interchangeable lens cameras are expected to fall to 16.7m units, a 2.3% decrease. Lenses are expected to decline 4.1%. Curiously, within Japan shipments of both interchangeable lens cameras and lenses are expected to rise, despite an increase in the consumption tax that takes effect in April. (Note also that the CIPA press release has errors in it; they claim, for example 55.0m units in 2014, but their supporting material clearly shows 50.5m, so the press release must have a typo.)

I've yet to complete my full analysis and prediction for 2014. I usually wait until all the companies have hinted at or reported their full year results, which means that I can't do my final analysis until April, sometimes May. But my sense is that the CIPA numbers are once again overly optimistic, especially with compact cameras. Then again, this is a Photokina year, so perhaps there are some major product changes ahead that are factoring into the Japanese companies' predictions. Again, I'll have a better sense of that once I see what the final reporting for the fiscal year was at all of the companies (only Canon's fiscal year is the calendar year; all the others are offset by a quarter). 

Here's what the chart above looks like with CIPA's new numbers and the rounding turned off (you can see the slight optimism that things will not continue the dramatic drop):

overall camera sales2014.jpg

Bottom line: 2013 was tough for camera companies, but 2014 will be tougher. Nikon reports their third quarter results and new estimates on Thursday, but I expect them to  show a contraction in sales.  

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