For an industry that’s been going great guns for over a year, many dealers are seeing the first slowdown since the pandemic began. Some are experiencing the typical back-to-school slowdown when consumers focus on kids clothes and supplies.
Last year, there was no such retreat in sales, but then again, many kids did not go back to school in person. And this year, many retailers expect sales to return to their previous high levels once back-to-school ends, typically around early October.
Almost every retailer and manufacturer rep we polled has seen a slowdown of some kind. Tom Sweere of Beach Autosound, CA said business has been slower for the past six weeks. “My phone is ringing less, traffic is less and traffic on the street is less.”
Most retailers say while sales are off their highs, they are still better than an average year. Kelly Kirschner of Performance Auto Sound, WA with 5-stores put it this way, “We’ve seen a slowdown from the pace of over the last couple of months, but sales are still really good. July was slightly down from the previous year but we had such a huge July last year, that really didn’t shock us.”
Retailers are also still scrambling for employees. Performance Auto Sound said it could probably add about 20 percent more installers and salesmen if it could find them.
Many agreed with Andy Bagwell of 3-store chain Audio Express in VA. “There’s definitely a little bit of a slowdown in floor traffic but it’s not as pronounced as it has been in the past. Before COVID, all traffic would cease for a couple of weeks until early October. Last year we just plowed right through and stayed busy. This year the shop is still really busy but I noticed a slowdown in foot traffic.”
Some dealers, such as SoundFX, RI see the slower pace as a welcome relief for overworked employees. “We’re trying to get the schedule back from where it was, at about 3 weeks out to 3 days. For me business is still pretty good, just not at the level of June and July,” said Mark D’Elia.
A few dealers are already seeing business pick back up including California Custom Sounds, with 4 stores in OH. Co-owner Zack Knoop said, “We were off a little in August, however we seem to be recovering. September is a little bit up over last September. I think it’s over now.” Typically his stores are down 30 to 40 percent during back-to-school season compared to the peak season in April/May.