Best Buy’s Semi Closure Helps Some Specialists

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Best Buy reports on Q2 2020

There was a time, when car audio specialists could only wish for Best Buy to partially shut down for a few months, and leave that extra business open for the taking.

At the moment, if your store is fully open and installing, you may be enjoying that scenario.   Almost no Best Buy locations are offering car audio installation at this time, based on our research, despite the fact that 200 stores are re-opening this month on an appointment-only basis.

After calling some of the semi-reopened Best Buy stores and the national Geek Squad line several times we were told repeatedly that the car audio installation bays are still shut down.  Corporate Best Buy did not respond to our inquiry.

A few dealers say they are benefiting from Best Buy’s semi-closure, but others say they’ve seen no noticeable benefit. Still others say they gained from Car Toys’ closure during March and April (all  Car Toys stores in Oregon, Texas and Colorado  reopened in May, but Washington state stores remain closed).  Other retailers say they are benefiting from the closure of places like casinos.

Adam Devine of Devine Concepts, Naples, FL  noticed his custom car audio store was suddenly attracting a younger customer.   “We’re more of a concierge service for certain clientel…we typically don’t see the younger kids and older vehicles,” said Devine, adding that now “‘we’ve seen more of the simpler jobs that typically would go to a big box retailer.”

But just so you know, Devine worked at Best Buy for 15 years prior to opening his shop and says he’s grateful for everything he learned there.

Mike Schwitz, Installation Manager at Sound Connection, MN said customers are coming in stating specifically that they typically would have shopped at Best Buy.  They are buying head units, back up cameras and also over the counter wiring harnesses for a DIY job.  The shop’s business is almost double what it was last year and about a third of that is from the Best Buy customers, estimates Schwitz.

Pete Muller, Owner of Tint World of Longwood, FL says he’s getting a couple of extra calls a week from customers that “would otherwise have visited Best Buy and never otherwise would have thought to go to a specialist.”  They typically order a head unit and four speakers.
Puns Customs’s business is up dramatically;  “1000 percent,” according to Owner Josh Collins. The Michigan-based store is seeing, “a lot of deck/pair installs” from customers who would typically go to Best Buy or ABC Warehouse,” he said.   “I live in a very small town with extremely limited options for audio services. I am one of four shops in a 25 mile radius. And my sales have skyrocketed since Covid hit and the big box stores closed.”

At a virtual town hall held by the Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) last week, a retailer noted that some shoppers may prefer to shop in smaller stores with less crowds.

Our polls of dealers show a wide gap in the state of specialists’ sales at this point.  Some are seeing record sales for April or the first half of May while others are down as much as 70 percent.

A MEA survey with 116 respondents the week of April 17 showed that 92 percent of specialist shops were open, up from about 75 percent a few weeks earlier.  But we note that 800 Best Buy locations are still curbside pickup only, 11 of Car Toys’ 48 stores are still closed, and 4 of Audio Express’ 25 stores are still closed.


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