Ricoh Imaging announces restructuring: Moving toward digital sales and made-to-order cameras (Update: for the Japan market only)


posted Friday, January 21, 2022 at 1:00 PM EDT

Update, 01/21/22, 6:08pm ET: Article updated and a clarification statement from Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation added below.


Ricoh Imaging Co., Ltd. has released an update on its business model. In a Japanese statement, Ricoh Imaging's President and CEO, Noboru Akabane, addressed different market challenges and how the company will restructure its business operations moving forward, including incorporating a more digital, direct-to-consumer sales method and a 'workshop-like' production for the Japanese market.

According to a statement from Ricoh Imaging North America, their distribution in North America is not changing, and Ricoh is still continuing mass production of their imaging products. Rather, Ricoh is extending their distribution strategy to include more direct-to-consumer approaches.

The announcement made by Ricoh Imaging Co., Ltd. on January 20, 2022 regarding a revamped approach to Ricoh’s digital camera manufacturing and distribution was specific to the local market in Japan only. “Ricoh/Pentax will not change its distribution structure in North America, and the company has significant plans and goals for the North America market this year that will utilize mass production of its products,” said Kazumichi Eguchi, President, Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation. “Customers in North America can continue to purchase Ricoh and Pentax cameras through our authorized dealers and directly via our website:”

In a translated statement, Akabane writes that Ricoh Imaging faces numerous challenges and that the current way of doing business, mass production and retail shops, is not sustainable. The solution is to focus on having a more open line of communication between photographers and the company itself and providing better ways for customers to offer feedback and participate in the planning stage of product development.

Looking at the Pentax brand, the company will continue to focus on SLR development. The Pentax brand is a strong one with a committed following. While, of course, mirrorless cameras are more prevalent and are the primary focus for companies like Canon and Nikon, there's still a market for new DSLR cameras, as evidenced by the popular Pentax K-3 Mark III last year. Ricoh has long been offering different colors and special editions for its cameras. It sounds like the Pentax brand will soon offer more ways for customers to customize their cameras.


The Ricoh GR brand focuses more on snapshots and social community. Ricoh wants to strengthen this community by revitalizing its social media presence and creating a place for GR photographers to communicate with each other and speak directly to Ricoh itself. On the product side of things, the messaging is a bit vague, but Ricoh GR products will focus on high image quality, operability, and portability. The recent Ricoh GR IIIx fits the bill when it comes to high-quality images in a portable form factor. 

That focuses on the relationship portion, but what about production and sales? Ricoh says it will shift from sales methods based on distribution networks and dealers and instead push sales through the internet. This will increase efficiency. Ricoh also wants, at least in Japan, to have directly managed retail operations in major shopping malls. The general idea is to utilize more digital sales methods and move away from conventional sales operations.

The company will also incorporate a 'workshop-like' approach in Japan that will provide customers the chance to influence product design and communicate more directly with the manufacturing process. You may recall that Pentax has previously offered a Pentax KP J limited edition custom camera, where users could order a camera with specific colors and materials. More recently, Japan had the K-1 II J Limited 01 DSLR, which is another made-to-order camera with different color and material options. You can see that below.

If you'd like to read the full statement in its native Japanese, click here.

To inject a bit of my opinion, I think this is a wise move for Ricoh. The camera market has changed significantly over the last few years. There's much less room to be successful with entry-level cameras, and DSLR camera popularity has waned. However, as other companies have left the DSLR market, Pentax remains. The remaining market, if not large, is certainly loyal and I suspect willing to pay more for a made-to-order, custom-built product.

Mass production and traditional sales methods make less sense than they did even just a few years ago. While it may no longer be possible to have a successful business model by sticking with convention, that doesn't mean that success is impossible. By pivoting its focus, Ricoh looks poised to build a stronger relationship with its customers and develop ways to make more appealing, custom-built cameras. The company is doubling down on its biggest strength, its customers.

(Via Pentax Rumors