Olympus will end its camera business in South Korea on June 30, according to a new report from The Korea Times. The decision is 'mostly' based on low camera sales volume, the report claims. Olympus will continue to sell medical and scientific equipment in the country.
In a statement to the publication, Olympus said that despite focusing on mirrorless cameras and interchangeable lenses, 'it has become barely possible to sustain the business with profit,' spurring the business decision.
Though the company will shut down its brand store and online shop for South Korean customers on June 30, it will continue to operate its servicing facility in the country until March 31, 2026, enabling existing customers to get their camera gear repaired.
Olympus says it had to make this decision despite 'strenuous efforts to increase the profitability and efficiency of its imaging business' in South Korea. Olympus told The Korea Times that its decision to end camera sales in the country doesn't have anything to do with a social movement among residents to boycott products from Japanese companies.
The news isn't terribly surprising as camera sales are indeed down worldwide. Back in November 2019, rumors surfaced that Olympus was planning to entirely exit the camera business, something the company denied, stating instead that it was working on improving the 'profitability and efficiency' of both its imaging and scientific equipment businesses.
According to the CIPA figures released last month, camera shipments to Asia in March reached only 39.8% of the volume of shipments reported in March 2019. Overall worldwide shipments only reached 47.8% of the volume compared to the same month in 2019, with mirrorless camera models proving more popular than SLR cameras.
It's unclear how great of an impact the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had on this drop in sales volume, but it seems unlikely that camera companies can expect a spike in sales at any point in the near future. Given the fact that Olympus' imaging business was already struggling to survive in South Korea, it makes sense that the company would choose this time to exit the camera business in that market entirely.
We have contacted Olympus for a comment and will update this article accordingly if we receive a response.