Car Stereo Down 7%

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With the end of the year nearing, it’s time to give car stereo a report card on 2010 sales.

Total car stereo retail sales this year through October were down 7 percent compared to the same period in 2009, according to the NPD Group.

Alas, fixed navigation sales were down too by 7 percent, but as we reported earlier, some customers are now opting get their navigation from a portable GPS device or smartphone so they are buying simpler AV radios instead of the full in-dash navi package.

Car stereo speakers as a whole were down by 5 percent year to date and 12-volt amplifiers and equalizers were down by only 2 percent.

Jan – Oct 2010 vs. Jan – Oct 2009
Unit Volume % Change
Car Stereo Speakers -5%
Amplifiers and Equalizers -2%
Fixed Nav -7%
Total Mobile Audio (excluding PND) -7%
Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service

Sorry we don’t have dollar volumes for you.

Source: NPD
Photo: Kenwood DNX6960 via Crutchfield

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  1. Until there is a unified plan of action from the manufacturers, to the distributors, to the specialists, there will be no moving forward. The manufacturers want the biggest sale they can get… who doesn’t? That’s why they go to Best Buys and WalMarts… because they are buying inventory. It’s our job to teach the consumer why the specialist store is a better choice. We need help in getting their attention. We don’t have the advertising budgeets of Best Buys and the Online giants… are you listening manufacturers????? Or do we not have as big of voice as the Box Stores and Online Crooks???
    Someone said pick the brands that are loyal to the specialist. That should be etched in stone somewhere. If your primary line sells to everyone that wants it… dump it. Stick with the brands like Memphis, and Focal… who have maintained their loyalties to our stores. They aren’t the biggest brands, but they support YOUR STORES!! We’ve eliminated every single brand, except Memphis for that very reason. Maybe someday the distributors and the manufacturers will get the hint.
    Someone else said to Create Demand for your store. I think that’s on the money, but it would be helpful if the manufacturers helped point them in our direction and not a map to Best Buy or WalMart. But that’s their choice. They don’t support me… I don’t support them. Same goes for distributors… If you’re local distributor is selling out the back door to every back alley hacker, and I think the great majority do… find a different distributor that doesn’t. They are out there and they need our support, as store owners, just as much as we need them. Make an effort to get to know each other… this business is built on relationships… and NOT products. Relationships with the manufacturers, distributors, specialist stores, and the almighty CUSTOMER!!

  2. The industry may be down, but the real retailers, run by business minded individuals, aren’t showing declines. Some of us are showing double digit growth YTD.

    I wonder if the same goes for the manufacturer. Are some manufacturers showing gains, and if so is it because they have business minded individuals at the helm or is it because they are using pricing to acquire market share? The manufacturer who brings to the market an innovative product ahead of their competitors, and ahead of what is available from the OEMs, will be the leader in their category. To gain market share profitably there needs to be innovation. Our industry needs innovative products that are relevant and will create demand with today’s consumer. The race to zero is not the answer.

    An interesting article on BNET, worth reading can be found at the link below.

    J. R. Stocks
    General Manager
    Freeman’s Car Stereo Inc.
    [email protected]

  3. With most of the New Cars on the Market i’m not so sure a fast headunit change is nessary. Think outside the box most the factory speakers are not that great.
    Also you can wave goodbuy to the bigbox stores if its not going to bring in profit like it did in the 90’s i’m sure they can find somthing to fill that floor space that will turn a bigger profit.
    Seriously! WALMART Sells Car Audio! …………….

  4. There is no easy answer. What you need to do is reevaluate your bizz plan (you do have one right?) what goals are you looking to accomplish (install, sales, marketing, brands). Does the box store send you what they can’t do?…Have you tried opening communications…keeping them open. Have you evaluated your brands…selling sound around companies are not going to make it anymore. Next time your sales rep comes in, ask him/her for honest opinion of your shop. It is easy to not see your own clutter. Are your brands different than online/ box store. How versed is your install team with new products, different services (tint tires exhaust trailer hitches headlight refacing (thinking about expanding yet). How are you marketing your shop? banner in front of your shop only? or are you at every event in town…do your customers feel like they they have everything they could ever want for their car from you (branding your shop as the undesputed google of everything car).

    Is your passion for 12 volt still there? if it is, you’ll buy for winter season in summer, you’ll have a fix for every problem…or you’ll find one. Yeah, car audio is down…may never be like the 90’s, you need to evolve, manufacturers are evolving (to canfind distrobution…distribute to any1 they can find)…as well as their product lineups will be/ are now changing to meet market needs. If 12 shops were so great you could charge them to have their products in your store. really most look the way they did 10-15 years ago, and that market is gone. Hard desicion time, evolve into something other than what you started out to be, or….

  5. What I found interesting is, we sold quite a few high end navigation systems this year but a shop just down the street sells the same brand and has sold none. As the retailer, we need to re-think the way we approach our sale. I recommend the Eddy K sales training. now more than ever we need to hone our sales skills. Until you’ve had professional sales training, you’re shooting from the hip. There are key elements to closing a sale and getting the customer in your store. An example for you: A customer calls for a woofer box. Store “A” say yes, we build woofer boxes, they start at $250.00. Store “B” with training says, We build custom made woofer boxes using 3/4 inch MDF, we use 2 different adhesives to assemble it, carpet it to match as close as possible, design it to work for your specific speakers, mount it, wire it and tune your amp all for only $250.00. Even though both stores are selling the exact same box, store “B” seems to bring so much more to the table. Too often we don’t take into consideration that the customer doesn’t share in our knowledge. It’s important that we educate them.

  6. Guys,

    Shock of skocks… Manufactures behaving badly. Consumer traffic down. Lots more competition. Apps available on the smart phone to help your consumer “touch it” in your brick & motar store and then buy at the lowest online price by snaping a picture, right from your your brick & mortar store. Say it ain’t so.

    It is time for installing specialty retailers to take matters into their own hands. I submit a little homework, realistic review of circumstances, decission making and execution are in order.

    Not ALL manufacturers are leaderless. Not ALL manufacturers are without a plan. Not ALL manufactures talk simultaneously from both sides of their face.

    Talk to your friends. Learn which manufacturers understand the installing specialty retailer. Which manufacturers have policies that support the installing specialty retailer. Which manufacturers actually do back those policies with action.

    After research, it is the responsibility of the installing specialty retailer to decide to take control. Then the installing specialty retailer must take decisive action. Sell what is in your best interest to sell, not the best interest of the manufacrturer or whatever your online competitors are pushing. Those of you who just thought “well the consumers are not asking for that” MUST understand the role of the installing specialty retailer is to CREATE DEMAND for services and products which he chooses to stock and sell and then to fill that demand profitably.

    It ain’t as easy as it was 5 or 10 years ago… BUT it ain’t rocket science either. It can be done. Take action or get comfortable with the following question… “Do you want frys with that?”.

    Ray Windsor
    German Maestro

  7. And on top of that, the lack of available inventory from the manufactures this year due to the majority of all product being allocated to big boxes and online retailers. This year was the year of “Step on the Direct Dealers and Distribution” side of the business. I would love to see this industry go back to the good ole days of “Limited Distribution” and stop selling out to all these online big wigs, but those days are LONG GONE!!! The part that ticks me off the most is that these manufactures will set there and lie to your face saying that “O know…we aren’t selling to these online giants!!! We discourage this type of practice and won’t condone it!!” This as they are licking their chops and counting their dough!!! Integrity and Loyalty is another thing this industry is lacking and until we get that back, it will ultimately fail!!!

  8. …and what is the percentage OEM systems – particularly the marquis-branded ones like Bose, JBL, B&O, etc – are up this year over last? Seems the car makers are selling those quite nicely. Prediction: All 12 volt gear will be a matter of ‘integration’. Gone will be ‘replacement’ & ‘additional’ products sold. OEM will become more and more proprietary and our skills & products will need to integrate into more complex, unfriendly and ‘we-don’t-want-you-here’ environments. I think the only way to mitigate that outcome is for our industry to have better leadership, as Barry suggests, and a more honest & candid conversation within the industry to look ahead, plot & plan against the opposing intentions which face us.

  9. Sad but not surprising statistics. It is obvious that many in the 12 volt industry know and understand the issues that need to be addressed and overcome. What is lacking is a coherent and executable plan to address those issues in a meaningful and timely way. We have run out of time, yet all we are doing is talking. What is needed is leadership.

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