Canon Battles to Regulate its Products in Lebanon
Canon, a $25.7 billion company, and the world's leading imaging solutions provider, declared in a recent press release that not only is it aware of the pressing need for regulation in the Lebanese market, but it would take swift action to implement the controls.
Canon's two-front approach to battle smuggling and importers straying from the mother channel includes both heavy promotion and increased technical training. Concerned with the fact that Canon resellers in Lebanon are being manipulated on imported products, which often bypass the main authorized distributorship channels (thereby circumventing customs tariffs), the international giant is seeking to regulate the market. Canon management is irked by the problem of parallel importing, as reliability and the "company name" are weakened by distributors failing to adhere to the main company distribution channels.
Canon Mid-East GM Gordon Jones announced, "We are very keen to promote the official [Canon] channel in Lebanon. There are very real concerns about customer value when customers are being approached by 'unofficial vendors' who are not working closely with canon."
Canon's sophisticated products frequently require significant customer service and follow-up, and the launch of a new product line that requires substantial technical support is making the "need for regulation immediate," conveyed Canon Europe's Vide-President Andy Szeliga. Canon seeks to ensure that end-users will have access to technical support and follow-up that allow for optimal product usage. "We're working to offer customers a value package that makes the supported sales channel more attractive in Lebanon," Szeliga added.
Image Systems, the sole authorized Canon Lebanese distributor of printers, copiers, fax, and image management systems, welcomed efforts to strengthen their company's exclusive distributorship in the nation. Cesar Chalhoub, Managing Director of Imaging Systems, conveyed to albawaba.com, "Many suppliers come up with their own channels, purchasing from Dubai, Cyprus etc., smuggling in the products to avoid customs and to sell at competitive prices. After a few years, they become very experienced in this practice, and become very well known, with very competitive prices." Chalhoub welcomes the efforts to curtail parallel importing, and believes that the benefits will be directly passed onto the consumer - "only genuine products will be distributed with all of the proper customer service."
Imaging systems currently employs a staff of 20 in Lebanon customer support, and this number will grow under the regulation efforts. Mr. Chalhoub told albawaba.com, "We need to ensure that we are providing keen pricing as well as great service and that is a challenge we are totally prepared for."
According to past Canon experiences, such regulation efforts boasted a 90% effectiveness rate - a considerably high success rate, Mr. Chalhoub intimated. In a recently prepared study, Mr. Chalhoub found that 1200 (+/- 10%) used copy machines are imported into Lebanon per year, with approximately 10 companies selling the machines to the end users. Chalhoub noted that only approximately 75% of these machines have proper customer and follow-up service, and genuine Canon accessories. While he admitted that based on past experience, many local customers overlook professional Canon services, "willing to turn a cheek for cheaper prices," the main distributorship aims to provide optimal customer service and satisfaction at competitive prices.
Salam Trading Lebanon Company is the sole authorized Canon distributor of photo, video and digital cameras in the country. Canon digital capable products are on the verge of huge growth in the nation, and Lebanon is considered a strategic volume growth market for digital imaging in the Middle East, due to its burgeoning IT industry. Chalhoub commented, "The opportunity is there for both Imaging Systems and Canon to build a dynamic and regularized market based on that strong demand." (albawaba.com news agency)
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