Ina Fried

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Sony to Streamline Product Lines, Shift to Common Pricing in the U.S.

Aiming to improve both its brand and sales, Sony is launching a new pricing program that will see many of its electronics priced the same, regardless of the store selling the products.

Starting April 1, Sony will move many of its products across categories into what is known as unilateral pricing or minimum advertised pricing, in which retailers agree to charge no less than a set price for a product. The company plans to move 140 product lines to such pricing.

“I think our brand is well-loved and well-revered, and still synonymous with premium quality,” Phil Molyneux said in a roundtable with reporters on Tuesday. “If we are not communicating effectively what does the product allow the consumer to enjoy … then that may have a drag on the brand.”

The company also plans to shrink the number of products. In TVs, for example, it will shift from 40 models last year in the U.S. to 22 this year. Molyneux said the company’s goal is profitable growth, but declined to say whether the U.S. business is making money today, or to identify specific targets.

It’s been a time of big change for Sony, which recently replaced its CEO and has also taken full ownership of its cellphone unit, previously run as a joint venture with Sweden’s Ericsson.

As first reported by AllThingsD last month, Sony has been cutting jobs in its U.S. operations.

On Tuesday, Molyneux said the company has now reduced its workforce by more than 300 positions in its U.S. operations, through layoffs and reducing open positions. Part of that was an effort to reduce the number of layers in the company, he said.

“If we have too many layers, our ability to act with speed, to be agile and to communicate effectively inside the community was hindered,” he said.

Molyneux acknowledged that one area that continues to need work is its product naming, which often consists of a jumble of numbers and letters.

“We’ve got some work to do on tidying up our naming conventions on products,” he said.

Another piece of Sony’s new strategy is to work more closely with retailers. Under a new program, stores will earn the maximum profit margins only when they hit a set of predefined criteria.

The company is also working to promote itself in new ways, Molyneux said, such as through social media.

Updated, 4:45 pm PT, to add more details on the strategy and job cuts.

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