Car audio dealers are increasingly turning to Walmart and other mass merchants to buy CarPlay head unit inventory, as distributors and supplier warehouses run dry.
Some say the trend started last year, some say a few months ago, but most agree the need to purchase through alternative sources has increased over the past two months. CarPlay radio shortages are at their worst since the pandemic began, say many industry members.
Few believe the trend, at its current levels, will last beyond the shortages and they fully expect most retailers to return to buying from traditional sources in the future.
Russ Tamberelli of Sylvester Electronics in Rhode Island said more than a handful of his local shops are buying car radios at Walmart or Target or Best Buy. “The first time I noticed it, it was a marine head unit. I said, ‘Where did you get this?’ The [dealer] said it was either from Target or Walmart. At least another half dozen stores I know have done that otherwise they are turning away business.”
A distributor who spoke anonymously said, “I’ve got one guy who goes weekly to every Walmart within 25 miles of his store and he buys everything he can get–single, double DIN. Then he marks it up. If the customer complains, he says, ‘There are no more deals. The deal is that I have it in stock.'”
He added, “It’s an interesting world out there. The smart guys are finding ways to survive.”
Ed Dalesandro of manufacturer’s rep End Result, PA said some of his dealers are turning to Crutchfield, ebay, Amazon and Bestbuy.com for head units. “The brand at this point doesn’t matter, it’s double DIN CarPlay head units.” He added, “It’s the smaller guys that don’t get much of an allocation and don’t get preferential treatment from a manufacturer or distributor or don’t have MESA [Mobile Electronics Specialists of America] friends that have them.”
Robert Hough of Car Audio & Security, IL, said, “I have a business account with Best Buy, Crutchfield, and Abt to get product they may have in stock that I cannot get from my distributors. Amazon really doesn’t seem to have much product either and they are charging premium prices.”
“A lot of [dealers] are buying online,” said Morris Hartman of Big Daddy Marketing, NY. “They are buying wherever they can get product…it’s survival at this point.”
Photo: Walmart in Milford, CT