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Peter Rose


Peter Rose

PeterRosePeter Rose’s career in the photo industry started when he joined Hanimex at their head office in Sydney Australia in 1961. In subsequent years Hanimex grew to become a well respected International company with offices throughout the world and with more than 2300 employees. Jack Hannes, the founder and MD of the company, encouraged his “Trainee Executives” to travel and work in these overseas offices. By the time Peter turned 21 he had worked overseas in the UK for almost two years and also spent time in the offices in Germany, Hong Kong and Japan.

Peter also worked in South Australia and then in Western Australia as branch manager before being promoted to Sales and Marketing Manager for Hanimex Australia.Jack Hannes worked  relentlessly to expand the company and the Hanimex brand began appearing on 126, 110, disk, 35mm cameras, movie cameras, movie projectors, slide projectors and a huge range of non-photo related products.

All his key executives attended Photokina every two years and PMA annually.

The organisation provided those who lasted (it was a pressure cooker atmosphere) a “PhD” in the photo industry. During this time Ellen (his school time sweetheart) and Peter married and found time to have Nicole and Simon. During those days it was hard on the families as any interstate transfer or promotion meant you turned up for work next day with your wife having to  finding houses, schools etc. with little family support.

J.Osawa Australia was formed in 1981 and Peter was appointed as its first MD. Osawa was a well-respected trading house in Japan having offices in 8 overseas countries. The company represented Mamiya,Osawa lenses and photo accessories and subsequently added camera bags, a Panasonic camera (they only had one model!) and a range of flash. The photo market at that time was extremely competitive and retailers were making liitle money on camera sales. This led to the development of The Mamiya Franchise which guaranteed margins of 25% on cameras and 40% on accessories. The launch saw the company taking 80 key retailers and their wives to Bali for a week where the company  rolled out the TV commercial, POS displays and plans for the next year’s marketing. The scheme quickly lead to large market shares for Mamiya product.  

Peter was invited by Zenro Osawa, the MD of the worldwide organisation, to visit Singapore and Hong Kong offices and introduce the scheme to their markets. However, 1983 saw the worldwide collapse of Osawa’s export business and subsequent closures of all its offices . Remembers Peter Rose, “ We received a telex saying  ‘We as directors of your Australian operation, order you to cease activities in Australia immediately’. It was signed ‘kind regards Zenro Osawa’. We had $20M owing to the bank (unsecured), 20 staff and a profitable business turning over almost $18M PA. It was quite a shock”!

Said Peter, “With my two key employees, Peter Osborn and Gary Susans, we decided to form a new company in mid-1983 and called it Merit Imports. We were able to carry on the business and eventually return to the bank 80 cents in the dollar. They were very happy!”

The company went on to purchased Baltronics, a professional supply business that held the Sinar, Broncolor and Foba agencies. These products complimented the Mamiya medium format range.

Merit also gained new agencies including Vivitar, Yashica, Fotima camera bags, National Panasonic flash and cameras, Sea and Sea underwater cameras and Vivanco video editing equipment.

Towards the end of 10 years,  the board was asking if margins would improve or would the major brands become ever more competitive? Remembers Peter, “You had to be big to gain major agencies and you could only get big with major agencies .Catch 22 . So the decision was made sell the business to Hanimex who were already a minority shareholder. The decision was, in hindsight ,the right one, in view of the heavy consolidation of distribution in cameras. We made no money in selling cameras during our 10 years, and that was certainly the case as digital took over.”

“Camera House Australia was looking for a General Manager to assist in their next stage of growth with their 100 plus members. New signage, a new jingle, monthly catalogues, an annual conference were all ongoing elements to be managed in conjunction with a board of members. It really came home to me at Camera House that the strength of the organisation was in its members and as it was a cooperative at that time, they frequently controlled who did or did not trade in their area. It was an interesting couple of years that hopefully assisted in some small way to their now being the strongest independently owned group of specialty stores in Australia.”

“I was approached by Kodak in 1997 to head up the largest of their regions in Australia, Eastern Region which included Sydney, the site for the Olympic games in 2000. To drive in the front gate on my first day with them was something special….”.I am going to work for Kodak!” Understandably, having worked with Hanimex (the Fuji agent) for so long I was still tinged green, however from very early I was impressed with the education, promotional money available, strength of the brand, integrity of management and size of the team available to me. The pressure was on from the outset, The Olympics was counting down and my sales team had to deliver on what would be the photo industry’s biggest opportunity ever. We did the job, made record sales and then the redundancies started! To be a manager in that environment was extremely difficult. Kodak staff believed they had a job from cradle to the grave. The shock and loss of trust when their colleagues started to be fired was sad to see. Unfortunately the good ones could see what was coming and left anyway, to add to the workload of others who chose to ride it out.”

“I was made manager of the Kodak Express Camera Centre program after the Olympics, where we created a logo, signage, a catalogue program, a buying group and annual conferences. It was a lot of fun working again with retailers who wanted the scheme to be successful. PMA played an important part during this period with Australian conferences put together by Les Brenner and later by Terry Rimmer playing an important role in helping lift the level of expertise in retail. It was also good being part of the regular Sydney PMA meetings that were held at Rosebery or convenient restaurants.”

“In Mid 2005 John Paxton (who is still one of our directors of PMA Australia) asked whether I was interested in taking on the PMA role in Australia, which was being vacated by Terry Rimmer  (who had done such a good job following Les’s retirement). I was very keen on the role as I felt my experience with retail groups, my own business and working for distributors equipped me well.”

“PMA changed its  focus dramatically in late 2006 when it was agreed with PICA (the Australian distributors association) that we would run both  the annual exhibition and convention.”

“A contract team was put together comprising John Bourne who would manage space sales, Eve Phillips who would be “back of house’ and Paul Curtis who looked after marketing. The decision was taken to introduce the public on a day and half (now two days), expand education on the show floor and involve PMA members in getting their customers to attend the show. It was no doubt that having key PMA retailers involved turned the event around. We also negotiated  holding The Framing Show in conjunction with our event. This proved very successful in drawing Framers to the PPFA conference and expo.”

“The subsequent  annual Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne events all grew in space sales and enthusiast attendance, to the point where the last event we managed in 2011 drew more than 20,000 trade, professionals and enthusiasts.”

“The income generated from these events subsidised the income for PICA, PMA and the professional associations. A further formulae was established to reinvest monies into a promotional fund to help promote retail sales for our members. During this period of 4 years, it is estimated over $2m was fed back to the trade associations involved, as well as into the promotional fund to generate consumer attendance. We had developed a very cost effective business model that was helping us all. It was an eye opener to me to see the value of a committed PMA executive, headed up by Richard Robertson in gaining “buy-in” from members. The latitude and support from Jackson that Jim Esp afforded was significant in adding to the result.”

“Whilst these events were a 12 month exercise, PMA continued to hold regional State meetings, developed the Future Leaders program (which spun out of the Young Achiever program) and ongoing coordination of PPFA, APCI, PIEA and DIMA  associations.”

Concluded Peter Rose “The importance of John Bourne and Kathy Warlum in the success of the Australian office cannot be understated. They understand the culture of PMA and know what will work. They make me look good!”

At the PMA@CES event in Las Vegas, Peter Rose, PMA director of Australia , was honoured as one of five members of the International Photo Marketing Association to receive the 2013 PMA Distinguished Service Award.

From an Interview with Peter Rose – January 2013