Bowens: Yes, We’re Dead, and Chinese Brands Killed Us

It’s now official: Bowens is dead. The well-known 94-year-old lighting equipment brand has officially confirmed that it has discontinued operations, and one of the main factors in its demise was the rise of cheaper gear by Chinese manufacturers.

“Bowens International Ltd., an English manufacturer of studio flash units, will discontinue its operations,” Calumet Photographic writes in a statement released to PetaPixel, confirming reports that emerged late last week. Bowens and Calumet were both acquired by the European investment firm AURELIUS back in June 2016.

Bowens says the decision to close its doors was made due to a few “far-reaching changes affecting its market.”

The first reason is the emergence of “considerably less expensive products by Chinese manufacturers,” the company says. Companies like Godox, Phottix, Jinbei, Meike, and Yongnuo — some of which have served as OEM manufacturers for Western brands — have been able to eat into the market share of the lighting market by offering comparable products with competitive features at significantly cheaper prices.

Instead of producing equipment for popular brands, these Chinese companies are now marketing their own brands and selling directly to photographers, cutting out middlemen and price markups.

Cheaper Chinese lighting gear brands played a major role in Bowens’ demise.

Bowens was also affected by “product innovations by competitors,” who introduced new specs and features that it seems Bowens couldn’t keep up with.

Finally, Bowens blames the “changed buying behavior of professional photographers.” Photographers, according to Bowens, “are now only willing to invest in new equipment if the investment guarantees additional income.” So while photographers were much more willing to spend money on lighting equipment in the past, belts are tightening and photographers are more focused on whether new equipment will help earn more money.

AURELIUS says its main goal in acquiring Calumet and Bowens in 2016 was to turn Calumet into the leading multichannel retailer in Europe. Unfortunately, Bowens was included in the deal as a “peripheral activity,” the company says. With business struggling, AURELIUS is deciding to abandon the widely-known brand in favor of focusing on Calumet’s retail operations.

Calumet says it will continue to provide service to existing Bowens users, but that it will be working out deals with other lighting equipment brands in order to make up for the sales lost through Bowens’ demise.

Update on 7/21/17: Just to clarify, the decision to end Bowens was made by its parent company, AURELIUS, and the statements above were given on behalf of Bowens by the parent company in response to our requests to Bowens for comment.