SPECIAL REPORT: Camera prices could rise by up to 15% within weeks, as the UK’s vote to leave the EU pushes up the cost of imports.
Yahoo Finance reports that the pound has fallen by more than 15% against the Japanese yen since the Brexit vote on 23 June. It is now worth 131 yen – down from 155
The value of the pound has plunged more than 15% against the Japanese yen since the EU referendum on 23 June – a greater slide than against the Euro or the US dollar, the latter falling by around 11%.
This means it has become more expensive to import products from overseas, especially from Japan where many cameras are made.
Industry sources suggest that the prices hike could kick in within weeks.
Futuresource market analyst Arun Gill told Amateur Photographer (AP): ‘We would expect the Brexit impact to result in an increase of UK camera prices by 5-10%.’
The price of Novoflex lens adapters is set to rise 10% on Monday
Online photo retailer Speed Graphic was first to officially raise prices. The price of its Novoflex accessories will increase by at least 10%, starting from Monday 11 July. ‘We had one supplier slapping a 5% increase on the Monday after Brexit, and virtually every day since there has been a notice of another price rise,’ Speed Graphic said in a statement.
‘Even though much of what is sold is produced in China, it’s often purchased in dollars, so our advice is not to delay with any planned major purchase.’
Roscoe Atkins, managing director of Park Cameras, which runs stores in London and West Sussex, warned that prices could rise as much as 15%, from August.
Atkins told AP: ‘Sadly, Brexit will have a fairly immediate impact on pricing in the camera market – purely down to the weakening of the pound.
‘Our UK sources will, in general, buy from their parent businesses in the Far East at a fixed exchange rate for a period of time.
‘But they will not be able to sustain for long the fluctuation of the currency market.’
Atkins explained that camera components are largely manufactured in Japan and countries with cheaper labour costs such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Taiwan.
‘In general, the higher the level of camera, the higher the proportion of camera components are from Japan. This is important because the currency fluctuation is significantly more from the Japanese yen to the pound compared to that of the other currencies.’
Adrian Deary, marketing and communications manager at the London Camera Exchange – which runs 29 stores nationwide – told AP: ‘So far, a few manufacturers have indicated they will be increasing prices in the near future, perhaps as early as August.
‘If they do, then we will have to increase our prices as we wouldn’t be able to absorb the increase.’
LCE’s Adrian Deary
He added: ‘Early indications are that, where prices are going to be increased, this could be between 10% and 15%. But we will always strive to deliver competitive prices in the marketplace.’
Jim Mackay, managing director at Intro 2020, which imports brands such as Tamron, Tamrac, Cokin and Hoya, said the firm plans to raise prices by up to 12% on most products from 1 August.
‘The currency situation is precarious for us as the moment. My feeling is that it’s going to be six to nine months before we get some stabilisation,’ Mackay said.
A spokesperson for Kenro, which imports popular brands such as Nissin flashguns, said price increases were likely in the ‘near future’.
Escaping the price hike
Paul Cockrill, sales director at UK Optics, the official distributor for Chinese lens brand Laowa, said it will need to raise the price of these lenses by around 10% in the next month.
However, UK Optics plans to ‘subsidise’ the higher cost of accessories in the ‘near to medium term’ because profit margins on these products are greater.
Cockrill, who predicts that exchange rates will stabilise over the next few months, said new products such as Novo monopods will escape a price rise.
‘This is mainly due to their recent market introduction and our commitment to drive this business forward. We feel any price increases at this initial stage will negatively impact on the Novo brand,’ Cockrill said.
Futuresource’s Arun Gill suggested that the effect of exchange-rate changes may not be passed on to customers in full, for higher-end cameras.
‘To a degree we expect camera vendors and the retail channel to absorb some of the exchange-rate fluctuations in order to keep volumes moving, particularly because these are already challenging times for the imaging industry.’
He explained that a DSLR costing over £1,000, for example, may not see as much of an increase as a sub-£150 compact, in absolute terms.
‘For example, if a 10% increase is applied to all cameras, this could add an additional £10-20 to the current price of a low-end camera, which is relatively insignificant compared to the same percentage increase applied to a high-end camera, which could add at least £100 to the current price.
‘Therefore we think vendors are more likely to absorb some of this increase on the high-end and apply a slightly lower percentage increase here.’
Sigma is monitoring the situation but says price rises seem ‘inevitable’
A watching brief
So far, camera makers have largely remained tight-lipped when approached by AP for a response.
However, Sigma Imaging UK general manager Graham Armitage said price changes seem ‘inevitable’.
He explained that Sigma’s supply price is directly influenced by the value of the yen because its equipment is manufactured at a factory in Aizu, Japan.
Armitage added: ‘Of course, we build in a small buffer which prevents the necessity of constantly changing our prices with every minor fluctuation of exchange rate.
‘But the dramatic fall in the value of sterling as a result of [the] vote to leave the EU is far too great to be absorbed in this way.’
Armitage said Sigma is monitoring the markets before it makes any ‘dramatic decisions’.
Fujifilm UK told AP it has yet to decide whether to raise prices. Its general manager Theo Georghiades said: ‘We will continue to monitor currency and take a view over the next one to two months. The currency is still volatile so we don’t want to make a decision just yet.’
Leica Camera Ltd’s managing director, Jason Heward, said: ‘We are in a period of economic uncertainty and it would not make sense to react prematurely without understanding the markets more.
‘Like all international companies, we monitor exchange rates, and if we find that we need to respond to significant changes, we will do so in a careful and measured way. For now, we will monitor the situation.’
Higher-end cameras worst hit
Park Cameras’ Roscoe Atkins added: ‘These levels of [exchange rate] change are too high compared to the profit margins that manufacturers or retailers make, so unfortunately, this does mean that price increases ultimately will have to be passed on to consumers.
‘And the worst news is that for a large proportion of our customers, the popular, higher-level cameras (that have the most parts manufactured, assembled and tested in Japan) will see the highest levels of increases.
‘We will do all we can to continue to offer competitive prices, and we know it is in the interest of the camera manufacturers to minimise the impact too.
‘So, while we don’t know the exact impact it will have at this stage, it’s likely to be somewhere between 8% and 15%, and likely to have an impact in August.’
‘Spike’ in demand
Sigma’s Graham Armitage revealed that demand for Sigma products from retailers spiked immediately after the vote, as shops took advantage of current price levels.
He added: ‘We are importers and distributors and, as such, do not deal directly with the public, so I cannot comment on whether consumers are buying more.
‘All I can say with any certainty is that our customers, who are predominantly high street retailers, are buying more.
‘Whether that is to be in a position to maintain current street prices for longer or to increase their profit is anybody’s guess.’
Jessops, Nikon, Sony, Canon, Panasonic and Zeiss declined to comment on the impact of the Brexit vote on camera prices.
Pentax brand owner Ricoh Imaging, Hasselblad and Olympus had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.
Speaking before the EU referendum, Hasselblad CEO Perry Oosting told AP: ‘We have a price point, and if [a change in the pound] is really going to make a difference then we probably have to adjust the price point.’