Major layoffs at PocketWizard following poor sales

Cost-cutting and restructuring are under way at the famous flash trigger manufacturer.

PocketWizard's headquarters in South Burlington, Vermont

LPA Design, the manufacturers of¬†PocketWizard¬†radio triggers, have¬†made a number¬†of staff redundant following “below forecast” worldwide sales.

In an e-mail to distributors, CEO¬†Tim¬†Neiley¬†announced that the¬†Vermont-based¬†company was¬†bringing its international sales and marketing in-house, terminating an 18-year relationship with consultancy firm¬†Inovanti.¬†However Mr¬†Neiley¬†stressed there would be “very little impact” on dealer relationships.

He¬†has blamed the poor sales on¬†slow economic recoveries across the world, changing customer behaviour and increased competition. “LPA has reduced staff at the company as well,” added Mr¬†Neiley, “and will be focusing its resources primarily on engineering¬†development.”

PocketWizard's headquarters in South Burlington, Vermont

Rumour has it that as many as 20 or more employees have been made redundant¬†over the course of two rounds of¬†layoffs, out of a total workforce of fewer than 50 people.¬†Job losses¬†have reached even senior management with vice-president (sales and marketing) David Schmidt¬†gone after five years with the company. The former VP¬†is now a “freelance photographer” and has been writing recommendations for other staff.

Nobody has publicly announced being laid off but portfolios and LinkedIn profiles are being discreetly updated, with technical support specialists, the marketing coordinator, production/repair manager, designers, engineers and logistics staff all ending employment in January and February 2014. Calls to PocketWizard customer service went unanswered last week.

LinkedIn screenshot: LPA staff

PocketWizard flash triggers have been widely used by professional photographers for decades, and are integrated into lighting equipment made by industry partners such as Sekonic, Profoto, Dynalite and Bowens. The brand has become synonymous with radio triggering.

However recent years have seen PocketWizard struggling to compete with Chinese manufacturers offering increasingly sophisticated rival products at lower prices. The back-to-basics PlusX transceiver released last year seemed to be an attempt to counter this, but it turned out to be not a very good one.

In August another pro-focused US manufacturer, Quantum, was taken over by Promark, which now owns eight different photo brands. But no one has publicly shown an interest yet in buying LPA Design. The company founder Jim Clark left in 2011 to work outside the photography industry.

Inovanti¬†marketing consultant¬†Lorenzo¬†Gasperini¬†confirmed¬†PocketWizard¬†is “no longer a client” but did not elaborate.¬†Neither¬†David Schmidt¬†nor¬†Tim¬†Neiley¬†could be reached for comment. A spokesman for the US distributor,¬†Mac Group,¬†said:

“We, MAC Group, handle sales, customer service and repairs of PocketWizard in USA and we have no reason to believe there will be any change in these areas we manage. We have been informed by the manufacturer, LPA, that they have made recent staff reductions in response to shifting worldwide production requirements, and so they can focus their resources on new product development.”

PocketWizard¬†is billed to exhibit at the Wedding & Portrait Photography Expo (WPPI) in Las Vegas, Nevada on 3‚Äď5 March 2014.

David Selby
Based in the West Midlands, UK, David Selby is editor of Lighting Rumours, a part-time photographer and a statistics PhD student.
selbydavid.com