European buying group United Imaging Group announced, despite the global pandemic, 2020 sales increased 6% to €404.6 million euros. At €251.8 million, warehouse revenue is €29.7 million higher than the previous year’s figure (+13.4%). Consolidated sales including foreign sales of all subsidiaries are up 2.3% on the previous year at €465 million.
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was the seventh business year in a row with an increase in sales, the group said. The most significant sales increases were achieved in the product range areas of system cameras (+44.7%), lenses (+11.1%), video cameras (+27.1%), and video accessories (+101.1%). And the exclusive Voigtländer brand was also able to record growth (+6.5%) with its range of lenses. Sales of SLR cameras (-3.1%) and compact cameras (-19.2%) continued to decline.
Slight decrease in membership
As of Dec. 31, 2020, the United Imaging Group GmbH & Co. KG had 1,259 members with 1,623 sales outlets, a drop of 70 fewer members than in the previous year. UIG had 378 shareholders (15 fewer than at the end of 2019, including 6 additions and 21 departures). The reasons for the departure of shareholders are still financial reasons or operational tasks, which have, of course, been accelerated for some members as a result of the government’s lockdown measures and sluggish subsidies, the group said.
The entire last year and the past weeks of the second lockdown were an extreme challenge and burden for all UIG members and also for the United Imaging Group, and for many retailers this was associated with a painful slump in sales. Many employees in the photo shops and in the head office were on reduced hours work, the liquidity of the shops was very limited and the multitude of constantly changing regulations and information on state aid was difficult. The pandemic has also forced retailers to get creative and many retailers have used the last year very actively to expand their online activities and to deal with completely new ranges such as vlogging accessories and streaming equipment, the group said. Many have proactively advertised the UIG drop shipment service and thus set up a pick-up service during the lockdown. A passport photo emergency service was available wherever permitted.
The group responded to members needs an array of actions, including suspending direct debit of merchant invoices, and the creation of an array of web tools, webinars and more.
“With this bundle of measures, we have given our members maximum support and relief,” says Michael Gleich, managing director. “In particular, the suspension of direct debit was, of course, a great help for the members, which contributed significantly to securing liquidity. But also the many small building blocks such as webinars, social media posts or the procurement of masks and disinfectants have helped our members to concentrate on the essentials during this challenging time – to master the crisis financially and to generate sales despite lockdown and consumer reluctance. “
Re-opening campaign for UIG photo retailers
The United Imaging Group is planning a major re-opening campaign for April to support members in reopening their stores with highly attractive offers.
The core element is a campaign supplement under the motto “We’re back”. This campaign, for the first time, is being accompanied by the UIG with a Germany-wide online campaign and print advertisements. All ad words, Google display banners and social media modules are displayed in the regional environment of the insert participants and then lead to regional landing pages on which only the dealers of the region concerned are named.
Despite positive trends, the UIG is anticipating a slight decline in sales or, at best, stagnating sales for the year as a whole. The impact of the virus mutants is currently difficult to assess and the interruption of the supply chains in the Far East and the associated poor availability of goods are still a major problem, the group said.