Tips for 12 Volters at This Time

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Best Buy car audio dept

As many of you are now aware, California has shut down non-essential business as have states including Pennsylvania and Nevada.  We will be reporting on industry advice and reaction to this unprecedented event shortly.

Earlier this week, we gathered ideas that might be helpful to retailers and present them here:

Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) holiday. So far there’s a lot of talk on this subject, but most retailers and suppliers we polled felt it would not help sales and only cut into profits.  Several suppliers said they would be open minded if dealers wanted a MAP holiday, but aren’t convinced of its benefits.

Some retailers are also suggesting suppliers allow them to pay by credit card without a surcharge.  It effectively buys the dealers some extra months to carry product and keep the doors open.

Suppliers such as AudioControl and Focal are holding training webinars.  Now that installers may have some downtime, the goal is to use the time wisely and take the training many retailers had little time for in the past.

Cash is king right now, as one retailer put it. If you pay in cash, ask for a discount.

Matt-Palumbo-AudioControl give car audio training
Matt Palumbo gives AudioControl webinar this week

Another retailer pondered the idea in this time of social distancing of charging a DIY’er for FaceTime with an installer where the installer leads the end user through the install.

Many retailers suggested keeping installers busy fixing up the shop if there’s downtime in the bay including deep cleaning and painting the shop.

Is it time for dealers to also sell online?   Is the pandemic a warning that a retailer that is not online is at risk of losing too many sales?

Mark D’Elia of SoundFX in RI said no.  At a time like this customers are buying food and supplies.  “Massachusetts had 20,000 applications for unemployment on Monday, and had 20,000 for the entire month in February.”  He said, “Normal car audio shops can’t afford to sell product on line. It takes a lot of resources to have an online store. It’s expensive to build and maintain. We looked into it…and you have to have the inventory to back it up.”

See comment below by Robert Heiblim.

Here are some other basic guidelines for shops suggested by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Send an email blast, post on social media and your website that you are implementing hygiene practices, such as wiping down counters frequently to reassure customers.  (See CarToys website for a sample announcement here).

Operate in shifts if need be to cut down exposure between employees.

Develop a plan in the event your region implements a “shelter in place” policy that curtails most business.

The CTA  has posted a COVID-19 resource site for the consumer electronics industry here.

Additional tips:

Call your insurance agent to see if your policy covers your current situation.

Check with your credit card provider if it is waiving interest so that you can borrow more freely.

Advice by entrepreneur Mark Cuban:

To help avoid layoffs, look for alternative business services you can offer.  “Since you have holes in your schedule, it’s a great time to experiment with new lines of business and see what sticks,” he said.

Brainstorm not only with your peers but with your competitors. “They are all in the same boat. Try to figure out the best way to reignite the industry.”

Clean up the parts of your business you’ve been neglecting.  See more advice from Cuban here.

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  1. This is a great time to catch up with work you are behind on… We are fortunate enough to have a back log of projects waiting to be worked on.
    We are open by appointment only. No Walk ins unless you have an appointment. If we schedule a job we are asking them to clean their vehicles of their personal items and letting them know we will be disinfecting their vehicle with house hold sprays before and after the job. We are under no circumstance letting them come in the shop unless it is a must see situation. If they do no hand shakes, No fist pumps. Distance conversations. This really has not been an issue at all for us so far. Most customers are ok with picking a radio and speakers we suggest for their application. All jobs are drop off only. Credit cards are taken over the phone.

  2. I appreciate the article, but i disagree about the e-commerce comments. Of course, nothing replaces touching, seeing, getting a demo and human interaction for consumers. No one suggests electronic interaction can replace human interaction and research shows it kind of tops out at about 30% of purchases.
    However, it still serves a big purpose. Note that while e-commerce grew about 14% over the holiday, BOPIS or buy online pick up in store and related things like returns, etc grew over 48% in the same period. Adding flexibility and choice is a winner for you and your consumers. What if all they need is a simple connector or other part or item they can grab and go or have shipped or delivered to them? If floor traffic is slow or non-existent now, give your staff productive things to do.
    Everyone can get on a phone or a virtual conference with consumers. Look into Zoom, Teams or other options alongside the free Google Hangouts as a way to offer interaction safely for your customers. The largest guys struggle with this, so emphasize your locality and flexibility.
    As for e-commerce remember that many distributors offer an endless aisle to you. While you may not stock in store, many will pick, pack and ship directly to your consumers, or get it to you in one or two days. You no longer have to limit what you offer, just how you deliver it. Distributors want to keep and to grow their business, so you will find many ready to help.
    As for costs, services like Shopify charge by transaction, and costs start very low indeed. While the site templates they offer may not excite you, they are flexible. Some of our clients sell many millions of dollars on these sites with no issue, connection to their books such as Quickbooks or others and to their distributors. All at an affordable cost. Do not let these sales go elsewhere.
    Remember, some of this will change consumer behavior ongoing. Many who never used online shopping will not stop when the crisis is over. We can see that those who adopt omnichannel selling are gaining share pre and post crisis, so do not sit back and worry, take action

    1. Thank you Robert. I inserted a reference to this comment in the text of the story.

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