In a short poll of about a dozen car audio retailers this month, all said they are diversifying into new market niches. Window tinting and leather seats were two of the biggest areas of diversification followed by fleet sales.
For many retailers, traditional car audio is 50 percent of sales, according to Avidworx’s Marcel Newell.
That 50 percent accounts for only car radios, amplifiers, subwoofers and speakers, and the rest might include security and remote start, backup cameras, mobile video, and window tinting.
Window tinting, especially, is a new market of interest to car audio retailers beyond the sun belt. The category itself has been gaining more attention because of its eco-friendly properties and its cancer protection by reducing sun exposure in the car.
MESA, the Mobile Electronics Specialists of America buying/marketing group is in talks to add a window tinting vendor to serve its retail members. (see story here)
Seven-store chain, Freeman’s Stereo Video, Charlotte, NC is looking into adding window tinting as well as leather seats for its mix. Four-store chain Sound of Tri-State, Clayton, DE recently added window tinting and 5-store chain Stereo King, Portland, OR plans to expand window tinting beyond one store location.
Car Toys, Seattle, WA with about 50 stores, branched into car detailing a few years ago and is now looking at both leather seats and window tinting.
Directed, which began offering Viper Window Tint to car audio dealers 3 years ago said 60 percent of car audio dealers reported offering window tint service at that time. Since then, Directed’s window tint sales have grown by double digits each year.
Sound of Tri-State entered window tinting about two years ago, following Directed’s entrance with Viper Window Film. The segment is now about 10 percent of the store’s business. Chain owner Mehdi Narimanian likes the market because it brings in the same type of customer as remote start. “It’s very labor intensive. But you get great consumer appreciation and it’s not that price competitive, at least in our market. And it’s priced just about where remote car starters are once you include labor, so it’s been very profitable.”
Tri-State (located in Delaware and Pennsylvania) was able to fill a gap in the market because other outlets for tinting in the area are mainly car care shops but not “female friendly” retail locations. “At least in our market, there are no national guys out there. There’s no pleasant environment type of retailers,” said Narimanian. He now has a full time installer at just about every location.
Car Toys said it is looking to expand into car detailing, protective film, paint protector, glass tint and leather seats. The chain branched into car care about two years ago. The segment is currently less than 10 percent of its business, but the store believes it should become 10 percent or possibly 15 percent of its revenues.
All-Guard Auto Alarms near Chicago is expanding into working on municipal fleet work. The store used to work on City and County cars in the 90s but moved away from it as business boomed in car audio. It’s now returning. The shop has been in business for 41 years so the city actually repeatedly requests work. The shop installs strobe lights, radios, computers, radar guns and camera systems.
For many retailers, diversification is necessary to keep profits and sales up or even with last year. Even retailers who are seeing growth, say diversification is an insurance policy on the future. “If anybody hasn’t done it, they have to do it now,” said Freeman’s J.R. Stocks.
Photo via Directed