Twice a year, my colleagues and I host roundtables for the press in New York and/or San Francisco. It’s something I started with one of our chief operating officers back in the early 1990s and continue to this day.
Last week’s session in New York was among the more lively and challenging sessions no doubt. There were 20 or so journalists there, ranging from major newspapers like the New York Times and the Financial Times, to the Reuters newswire, industry trade journals and a blogger from Gizmodo.
In addition to Stan Glasgow, the president and COO of Sony Electronics, we also brought along Jay Vandenbree, the president of our Consumer Sales Company. And I’m glad we did as much of the discussion revolved around the state of the economy (not great, but expect consumers will step up to higher quality goods in these times), consumer confidence (or rather the lack thereof), anticipated Holiday sales (we’ve got our fingers crossed and we are pushing the business hard), hot products (HDTVs, DSLR cameras, Blu-ray players, Reader eBook devices), retail perspective (supporting Circuit City and others), a new unilateral pricing program (affects about 1% of our products at the top of the lines (BRAVIA XBR models, ES receivers, Alpha cameras, SXRD projectors), and the important role of our Sony Style stores (aiming to be in the largest 50 markets with about 60 stores tops).
So while our management is not in total agreement with the Consumer Electronics Association’s forecast of 3.5 percent industry growth for the forth quarter vs. last year in the same period, we remain hopeful that American consumers will still find a lot to excite them this Holiday season. There are some great products from Sony (like BRAVIA TVs, BD players, VAIO PCs) and other manufacturers that are perfect for the digital television transition. There are also some terrific gift items (the Reader, Sony noise-cancelling digital headphones, Cyber-shot and Alpha cameras).
And while unemployment has nudged up a bit, the real estate market is still in shock and investment portfolios are looking a lot worse on paper these days, the vast majority of Americans are gainfully employed and still earning a paycheck. Most are getting ready for the Holiday season and — based on some recent mall visits — actively shopping, especially with the seasonal promotions of "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving), "Cyber-Monday" and beyond coming up.
With some cautious optimism in mind, we concluded the roundtable encouraging the press to not just focus on the "doom and gloom," and to see what they can do to regain their own confidence a bit in these challenging times.
It’s also a time to be thankful for what we have and let people know about it. Personally, I have a lot to be thankful for, including the wonderful career I’ve had at Sony Electronics for the last 18-plus years, as well as the opportunity to communicate with all of you through this blog.