Aside from the excitement of attending a meeting that is not virtual, it just felt good to meet with people we have not seen for more than two years last week in San Antonio at Kyocera’s dealer meeting. The last manufacturer dealer meeting I personally attended was in 2019. I have been to events with independent dealers such as American Coop, SDG, and ICDA all of whom were very pleasant experiences but different from a large dealer gathering.
This was also an opportunity to meet with the members of the press core who we have known for years and commensurate about our respective experiences. The sad note is what the pandemic has done to the hospitality industry. The meeting was held at the JW Marriott San Antonio which was an outstanding resort and a prime choice for a conference. Their current problem was their lack of staff and the few they had were far less competent and experienced.
What is important here is the meeting itself and it was as robust a gathering as you could want or expect. There are three elements of every manufacturer-dealer event we look forward to when attending. The general assembly, product fair, and the press and analyst meeting at the end of the show. All three were well done and filled with content that we could share with our readers. There were also breakout sessions, and while especially important to the dealers, are less so for us.
What we do enjoy was the opportunity to catch up with dealers we have not seen for a while. Kyocera tried to ensure that their leading dealers were present, and the result was we had an opportunity to talk to them. We also had the ability to chat with what we like to refer to as the mainstream players in the channel. They give you a particularly good picture of how things have been going for them and what are their major areas of concern.
There were no surprises there, as backorders and the carryovers from 2021 headed the list. The good news was business has been good. Sales have been strong and consistent and the dealers we spoke to managed to keep their sales and service teams together throughout the pandemic.
The General Assembly was a three-hour event that was informative, and what Kyocera dealers needed to hear. Kudos to Oscar Sanchez, president and CEO of Kyocera in the U.S. His presentation was what this audience needed to know and understand. We knew he was going to address e-commerce and were interested in the dealers’ reaction.
Overall, it was upbeat, optimistic, and challenging for the dealers to listen to. From the beginning, Sanchez had been conveying a message of the need to address change. The dealer’s reaction has been negative and not well received. They were clinging to the notion that their CPC business model was here to stay. We believe the pandemic woke them up.
We specifically wanted to speak to dealers who we knew were not happy with Sanchez’s message from the beginning. To their credit, they admitted that what he had been telling them and told them again was the truth. That was truly refreshing to hear. You hate to see an executive delivering an honest message and being severely criticized.
While e-commerce was a big part of the discussion so was production print. According to what was shared, the 15000c has done well. One hundred and forty have been sold to date and the company has been pleased with the performance.
During the Q&A dealers were asking questions about the OEM relationship with Ricoh. The Kyocera 15000c is sold only by Ricoh direct and not by their dealers. That said, you must expect that the private label arrangement has helped Kyocera successfully launch this product. Dealers, of course, are concerned about the competition but the 23 Kyocera dealers currently selling the product are doing well.
The activity around that product at the technology fair was strong and it was apparent that many of those dealers are interested in learning a great deal more about software as much as the hardware.
ECM was a big part of the discussion and as with the interest in production print, received an equal amount of attention. It was apparent that Kyocera had a large staff (we were told 100 people) that were there to present, respond to questions, and demonstrate the latest products.
The dealer’s reaction to the meeting was positive. They were very attentive to the presentations. The questions they posed were particularly good and helped us understand what was foremost on their minds.
What we appreciated more than anything else was the assembling of Sanchez and his senior staff on the stage to answer all the audience’s questions. Backorders were a big part of the discussion.
Kyocera decided to focus on A3 MFP at the expense of A4 as the demand was that strong and warranted it. In the press conference, Sanchez answered our question that Kyocera could possibly be doing some severe damage to their A4 business by taking that step. He responded by reporting that there is a new chip being developed for A4 that will be available in about 3 or 4 months. “We are asking the dealers to be patient for just a few months and the products will be there, for them.,” he said.
The message was clear. There are some interesting developments coming with the chip and Kyocera believes their dealers will be happy when they start selling them.
There was a great deal more to this conference referred to as REIMAGINE. We will continue to follow what was presented, discussed, and responded to, for the rest of the year. We look forward to visiting Kyocera at their booth at Printing United in October. Hopefully, some of those dealers we spoke to in San Antonio will be there as well.
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