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Covering the progress of the Foxconn alliance and the plans for the channel Sid Stanley, general manager, visual solutions, Sharp Europe gives an update of how the year is shaping up so far
It is over a year now since the Foxconn alliance with Sharp, how has that impacted the company?
Since the Foxconn alliance we have seen a significant positive impact on the performance of Sharp Corporation. A couple of examples: Sharp’s most recent fiscal results showed that 2016 earnings were better than forecasted, and that we were in profit for the last six months of the financial year; and for Visual Solutions, we have been able to rapidly grow our product line-up. At Integrated Systems Europe in February we launched six new product ranges, some to fill gaps in our line-up and some where we are first to market. We have been able to quickly develop a broad and innovative portfolio which puts us back in the mainstream market.
How are you seeing benefits from this then trickle down to Sharp’s network of partners?
The investment and the results of the investment show that we are in this for the long term and we will earn the right to continue and expand our partnerships through innovative products, excellent service and true collaboration.
Crucially, we can now offer more choice of product, both in terms of devices for mainstream areas like interactive touch displays and digital signage, and also in emerging areas like displays for the huddle space and high end video walls, where our latest display is the largest on the market.
We have also invested in headcount to offer a better service to our channel partners, we know that our people are our greatest strength. What we were able to achieve even in the tough times is solely down to them.
Will Sharp be focusing on any new business areas as a result?
Yes, we’re offering more for the office now, adding displays for the huddle space to our BIG PAD range of interactive flat panel displays. For retail, travel and leisure we have launched a full range of IDP signage. Entering signage with a comprehensive range from ISE means that we want to have a say in all of the main verticals.
We are also offering more for education, adding low end interactive displays so there’s something for everyone.
Earlier in the year you announced a partnership with Maverick. What does the relationship mean for both companies?
Maverick are one of the strongest distributors in the UK, particularly in the collaboration solutions area. Sharp is market leader in the corporate segment in IFPD and therefore the fit between Sharp and Maverick is very strong and mutually beneficial.
How will the Maverick partnership impact channel partners?
With an additional distributor, channel partners have more choice. Maverick will have a different portfolio from our other distribution partner Midwich. They both do a great job and we are very happy with our partnership approach.
What are Sharp’s partners currently doing within the channel? How have their ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ changed over the last 12 months?
For office end customers, AV has moved into the mainstream, due to the entry of a number of premium IT brands and a focus on improving collaboration. Tools like interactive displays are now starting to be seen as mainstream business devices and something to include in your IT spend alongside laptops and individual screens. This is a positive evolution for the AV industry as a whole and Sharp is well positioned to offer the channel a full range of products that combine Sharp’s R&D and inventive capabilities with Foxconn’s economies of scale. This should prove very attractive to the channel.
What do you see as opportunities for your channel partners in the current market?
All market forecasts suggest that our product segments are set to grow aggressively. In the AV displays market, we have seen almost 150% growth in units shipped in 2016 compared to 2015. Digital signage and interactive remain the two largest areas and therefore our recent product launches make Sharp a strong choice for the channel. Also, opportunities in the new emerging areas of huddle and entry level displays can be capitalised on with our new products.
Where is Sharp heading for the rest of 2017? What does long term success presently look like for the company?
Sharp will continue to roll out its product line expansion over 2017, we are also focussed on building strong long term channel partnership to take our products and solutions to market. In the signage space we will be launching and developing our Sharp Open Architecture Platform. It’s our new flexible platform for managing display content. We have 16 global CMS providers working with us so far. In the interactive space our marketing focus will be on communicating the points of difference of BIG PAD, our interactive displays. They give you a Pen-On-Paper experience that’s noticeably different than other displays, it’s much closer to the experience of writing on paper.