Olympus has announced that it is exiting the camera business in South Korea due to plummeting sales.
The Korea Times reports that Olympus Korea will shutter its imaging segment on June 30th, 2020, and will focus all of its efforts instead on its optical and scientific equipment businesses. The Olympus service facility in the country will continue to operate until March 31st, 2026, allowing Korean photographers who own Olympus gear to have their gear repaired.
“Olympus Korea had made strenuous efforts to increase the profitability and efficiency of its imaging business by concentrating on mirrorless cameras, including OM-D and PEN as well as interchangeable lenses,” Olympus Korea says in a statement. “However, over the last few years, the market has sharply declined. As a result, it has become barely possible to sustain the business with profit, leading to the decision to withdraw the imaging business from the market.”
Some are speculating that in addition to the reality of declining sales, ongoing politics may have contributed to the decision as well. Japan dropped South Korea as a preferred trading partner last year, and some South Koreans have responded by boycotting Japanese goods. But Olympus Korea says that the contracting digital camera market is solely to blame.
“Olympus Korea decided to wind out our camera business here on the background that the volume of the digital camera market is dwindling and the sales of our camera products are also decreasing,” a spokesperson tells The Korea Times.
Digital camera sales have indeed fallen off a cliff in recent years as consumers rely more and more on their smartphone cameras, making the business landscape increasingly bleak for camera companies — especially ones with smaller market shares.
Rumors emerged in November 2019 that Olympus was planning to exit the camera industry worldwide within a year, but the company quickly denied the report. Days later, Olympus’ CEO stated that the camera business may be up for sale, but the company then shot down its own chief’s statement and stated that there were currently no plans to sell.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating economic effects felt by most companies around the globe, Olympus’ camera division is presumably not on surer footing than it was last year. So it’s reasonable to wonder whether Olympus Korea is simply the first of many dominoes to fall in Olympus’ 84-year-old camera business.