Sharp's 2013 Tour de Force National Dealer Meeting Theme Highlights New Business Opportunities for Dealers

Sharp’s 2013 National Dealer Meeting was held in Orlando Florida on November 11th – 13th and brought together roughly 600 dealer attendees and 100 exhibitors and partners. The meeting’s theme was branded “ Tour de Force 2013”. The opening general session featured Doug Albregts, President, Sharp Imaging and Information Company, Laura Blackmer, Senior VP, SIICA Channel Sales, and Mike Marusic, Senior VP, Marketing & Business SolutionsGroup, from Sharp’s senior management team. The general session highlighted parallels within the changing music industry over the last several years and the office equipment industry, The parallel shift within the music industry and our own channel, was further enhanced by their keynote speaker, Bruce Dickerson, lead singer of Iron Maiden, who discussed the transition the music industry has gone through and highlighted how Iron Maiden has adapted and grown not just a a band, but as a global brand.

Keeping with this theme, Blackmer highlighted how customers changed their buying habits within the music industry and those that survived such as Sony Music, Apple, Pearl Jam, etc., adapted and evolved. According to Blackmer, “Our industry is undergoing its own evolution, and Sharp wants to be the catalyst, providing, the best products, solutions and key alliances.” This year’s theme, Tour de Force, according to Sharp, embodies everything they strive to do: innovate, evolve, and remain at the forefront of the industry.

Financial Highlights

The past year has been difficult financially for Sharp and Doug Albregts, President, Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America spoke candidly about their financial status highlighting that within the 1st half of 2013, Sharp’s operating income was positive for 4 consecutive quarters and revenue grew $13.7 billion, 22% better than 2012. In addition, Sharp Corporation’s Business Solutions Division globally, achieved revenues of $1.6 Billion growing about 14% versus 2012.

Sharp Announces Partnership with Tech Data

During the general session, Sharp announced a new strategic relationship with world class distributor Tech Data.  Starting in December 2013, all Sharp authorized dealers would be able to purchase directly through Tech Data and would have access to their entire product offering set in addition to Sharp’s.  This will allow Sharp to outsource business functions that are non-core to their new charter of becoming a partner that is easy to do business and, what a better way to do this with a word class distributor like Tech Data.  The new relationship will employ a vendor management inventory approach with Tech Data providing the single invoice; tech support services, expanded warehousing and guaranteed 2 to 5 day delivery turn time.  Sharp believes this partnership will help them focus on growing their core business and provide more support and services to their dealer community. InfoTrends believes this to be a significant shift in Sharp’s business model and will no doubt reap the company dividends for years to come by way of reduced operational overhead.

New Products & Solutions

In addition to the new channel announcement, Mike Marusic presented Sharp’s new products and solutions at the dealer meeting. With the announcement of the MX-C250, and MX-C300W desktop level color A4 MFP document systems they entered a new segment of the market they had not previously been in.  The new products are capable of output speeds of 30ppm and offer print, copy, scan and fax features.  Both products will be available mid-December timeframe.  Sharp also demonstrated in the product showcase, a refresh of their monochrome A3 MFP product line-up with six mid-high end monochrome workgroup MFPs ranging from 36ppm, 46ppm and 56ppm.  The products are split into two versions, a new Advanced Series and an Essential Series to make it easy for customers to choice the performance and features that are best suited for their work environment.  The Advanced series are the “Cadillac” MFPs with 10” tablet-style touchscreens, wireless networking, and retractable keyboard plus are cloud portal office ready, while the Essential series are just that “Just the Essentials” and are ideal for bid situations and cost conscious customers.  The new Advanced and Essential Series will be available for purchase Q1 2014 via authorized Sharp dealers and direct sales.

Sharp Cloud Portal Office

According to Sharp, their new cloud solution “Cloud Portal Office” is first-of-its-kind software designed for an increasingly mobile workforce where companies need to share information while maintaining control and security over critical documents. The software provides secure anywhere, anytime access to business content, facilitates both remote and in person collaboration, and  smartphones, traditional PCs, as well as Sharp’s AQUOS BOARD™ Interactive Display Systems and Sharp OSA® enabled MFPs. According to Sharp, what differentiates Cloud Portal Office from other cloud solutions currently on the market is the unique combination of capabilities it brings together, and the solution’s optimization for the Sharp B2B channel allowing businesses to connect, collaborate, conference, capture and control business content.

Over the course of the three day event we spoke with many dealers and business partners and the viewpoint we took away was of a company in transition that recognized the challenges within their business and instead of keeping on course they have changed directions and decided to adapt and grow.  Still, there are some general concerns of too little too late, however, Sharp seems poised to enter the next phase in a much better financial situation.  The relationship  with Tech Data is certainly a positive and will free up Sharp to invest back into the dealer community.