12 Volt Sales Decline Reported

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The downturn in store traffic and sales that began in September, is continuing for some retailers and suppliers, though not for all.

New data released by the Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) said 12 volt retail sales dropped by 10 percent in the third quarter, after increasing as much as 37 percent in Q1 and 27 percent in Q2 over last year.

Overall, many industry members say sales are still riding above pre-pandemic, 2019 levels. And MEA reports that even with the downturn in the recent quarter, sales are still up for the year through September by 15 percent over the tremendous sales of 2020.

Based on our inquiries, the sales status at retailers and suppliers varies widely.

One large supplier said it has seen a “huge” downturn in recent weeks.  One of its distributors’ weekly orders dropped by 60 percent. A large mass merchant is placing orders 50 percent lower than about six weeks ago, the supplier said.

But a second large vendor said it’s seeing much larger orders from two mass merchants and the only thing limiting sales is still supply of goods.

Three-store Sound of Tri-State, DE said, “It’s definitely slowed down.  We’re all used to those glory days where people had extra money…we knew, at some point, it would get back to normal,” in the words of the chain’s president, Mehdi Narimanian.  Sound of Tri-State, however, is still up over 2019 and for most of the year, it has been up over 2020.

Many retailers are watching gas prices. And some say larger jobs are keeping sales ahead of last year, but the smaller sales are on the decline.

Sales are up at Audio Systems of Moreno Valley, CA due to increasing sales of UTV full-audio packages. But store traffic, overall, is down, said Manager Anthony Carranza.  He believes thinning traffic is due to gas prices. “I think gas prices are making a difference.  When gas prices rose last time it was the same ordeal.  No one was shopping. It feels the same exact way now,” he said.

Floyd Seal of Empress Audio & Marine, MS agreed.  Traffic is down at the stores but big builds are keeping sales ahead of last year by double digits.   “I think it’s the fuel.  It’s probably taking $300 to $500/month out of a family’s budget.  The shortage is a problem, but I’ve been concerned about the traffic in the store for a while.”

He added, “People that have money are still spending. They don’t like the gas issue, but it’s not keeping them from doing a $10,000 system on their boat. Your working people, that’s where you can see a big difference.”

Consumers are also returning to haggling on price.  “I haven’t seen that in two years,” Seal added.

But Kurt Scherer CEO of Extreme Audio said sales are only down because they typically drop this time of year.  The three store chain is still up for Sept/Oct over last year.

Sales are flat or slightly down with last October at Five Star Car Audio in OH.

In a hint at what to expect for holiday sales, the National Retail Federation (NRF) announced that this holiday season may be one for the record books, jumping between 8 and 10 percent above last year’s record 8 percent gain.


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