Many 12 volt retailers and suppliers reported a rough start to 2019, although some said sales began to pick up at the end of March.
Sales were down by low double digits for January and February compared to a year ago, according to the NPD Group.
Aftermarket car audio sales dipped by 10 percent for the first two months of the year, as measured in dollar sales to consumers, compared to the same period a year ago. But last year, sales for January/February also declined 10 percent, compared to 2017, said NPD.
NPD tracks head units, speakers, amplifiers, navigation, and satellite radio.
Even the Mobile Electronics Specialists of America (MESA) buying/marketing group, which is often impervious to market dips, said sales were soft in January and February.
MESA Executive Director Ryan Gunter said, “It wasn’t awful, we did well with some vendors as far as achieving our goals, with other vendors we didn’t do as well. It was definitely a slow start to the quarter.”
Consumers were cautious at the start of the year. There was a government shutdown, which delayed tax returns and new and looming tariffs.
Lower tax refunds were also cited by retailers as a reason for the decline. As of February 15, total US tax refunds fell by more than $5 billion below those of 2018, according to Investor Business Daily.
A buyer for a 12 volt chain said, “For 80 percent of the population, tax refunds are their first savings account and last year we paid less taxes on our paychecks and got extra money and then forgot about it and expected the same refund of $3,000 or $4,000 and then got $1,200. So people are not spending that. It think it screwed up retail.”
Actually, electronics and appliance stores as a whole saw declines during the first quarter, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Sales at electronics and appliance stores fell 3.2 percent over the year prior in January, followed by a 3.8 percent dip over 2018 in February and 4.1 percent decline in March.
Overall retail sales fell .08 percent in February, but were up slightly in January. In March, retail sales rose .08 percent, said the NRF, which is forecasting about a 4 percent increase in retail sales for the full year.
Specifics from key retail sectors during March, according to the NRF are as follows:
- Online and other non-store sales were up 9.2 percent year-over-year and up 1.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Health and personal care stores were up 1.6 percent year-over-year and up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- General merchandise stores were down 0.5 percent year-over-year but up 0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were down 0.7 percent year-over-year but up 0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 1 percent year-over-year but up 1.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Grocery and beverage stores were down 1.1 percent year-over-year but up 1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 2.6 percent year-over-year but up 2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Electronics and appliance stores were down 4.1 percent year-over-year but up 0.5 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Sporting goods stores were down 10.8 percent year-over-year and down 0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.