The fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic is hitting car audio shops, as it is other small businesses. Here are some of the developments we’re aware of:
Customers are beginning to cancel installation appointments. For some shops this began late last week. As customers ‘social distance’ and stay home, there is a wide range in the impact on local 12 volt shops. Some have closed their doors and are operating on an appointment only basis. Others say the impact has been minor so far.
Matt Herald of Trent Partners out of Massachusetts summed up the situation thus far. “It’s a mixed bag at this point. I had one shop lock the doors for call-by- appointment-only and other guys are booked out through mid April.”
Some retailers suggested a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) holiday on the part of suppliers to jump start sales.
Another impact of the pandemic is that in-person training has ground to a halt. Dealers aren’t flying across the country for training, so suppliers and trainers such as Ken Ward of Educar are working on switching to webinar training for the time being.
The Mobile Electronics Association (MEA), which sponsors KnowledgeFest, said it will soon issue some guidelines for retailers during the pandemic. It will offer best practice guidance and advice from industry suppliers.
Distributor Vickers AV said its dealer customers aren’t ordering as they normally would, especially during tax season. “It’s still pretty good,” said Kelley Vickers. “And it’s a shame because we had a fantastic year so far…We just have to muddle through it.”
Even last week four of six dealers said sales were already slowing, according to a poll taken by industry consultant Bob Graham.
Soundcrafters, FL said the lack of a traditional spring break in Daytona didn’t hurt the store. “Up until today, everything was going swimmingly,” said General Manager Mo Sabourin Tuesday. “Today I had three cancellations, but up until now it’s been fine.” The cancellations followed the Florida governor’s announcement that all bars and nightclubs would be closed as of 5 pm.
Street Smart in Flowood, MS closed its doors over the weekend and began operating by appointment only. Ironically, Owner Rick Arnold had been wanting to convert to an appointment-only basis for a while but was afraid to lose customers. Now he views it as a forced trial run.
Lombard’s Stereo with two stores based in Santa Maria, CA said customers are cancelling appointments and business is “dead as a door nail,” according to David Joy. Sales began slowing last week but the cancellations really started on Monday. Fortunately, the shop has a backlog of work. “There’s no traffic on the roads,” Joy said of the area, but he’s hopeful that “In a month or two this will be in the rear view mirror.”
Car Toys posted this COVID-19 message on its web site.
Al & Ed’s Purchasing Manager John Haynes said overall business is strong.
Offering a bright outlook is Executive Director of the Elite Distributor Alliance, Jim Warren, who is in frequent contact with China. Factories there are now up and running so the virus caused a loss of about 4 to 6 weeks in commerce, he said. “I’m optimistic things will return to normal. Even though travel is not back to normal in China, one of the major cities hasn’t had a new case in over 3 weeks in a city of over 3 million people. I think it’s cause for hope for us…if China is an example, we will get back to normal.”