Should Dealers Buy-In Heavily Now

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When it comes to inventory other than radios, should dealers buy in heavily for this coming year or play it safe?

Will sales slow down this year?  Will prices fall?

Last year will be a tough year to beat.  Some retailers were up by high double digits, over a strong 2020.  Most tell us they expect sales to fall at least slightly this year.

Then there is the issue of price.  Higher car audio product prices are leading some retailers to buy more cautiously in 2022.

A top of the line amplifier that once sold at $1,300 is now up to $1,800.  Low end radios are up by about $40 and some radios are up by $200.

Three-store chain Audio Express in Richmond, VA is keeping a lid on buying because of recent price increases.

“It getting to the point where people will be less likely to afford it,” said CEO Andy Bagwell.  So he’s ordering the same as last year but also bringing in some lower priced lines.

“Do I feel like the demand will be as high as last year? I think it will be a little bit off because of inflation.  Customers are paying through the nose everywhere they go.  Demand is a little bit less.”

On the other hand, inflation is also helping sales because of high car prices. “Probably on a daily basis we have customers coming in and upgrading older vehicles because they don’t want a new car and can’t get one now anyway, and used car prices are so out of whack…” Bagwell said.

Some retailers say sales are strong but traffic is down.  Nate Kubicz of Car Tunes Stereo Center, MI said, “We have seen over the last  60 to 90 days, store foot traffic is down compared to the year ago.  The sales results have stayed great but foot traffic is down.  We have a lot of inventory and we have concerns about 2022. If you pay attention to gas prices, they are up; grocery bills are up. At some point, we will hit a breaking point with this consumer.”

The good times have barely slowed for The Specialists, AZ.  “We’re still banging them out. Maybe there’s been a little drop off, but the bays are still full,” said Pete Riker. Perfectionist Autosound, AK also has seen only a minor slowdown. It is buying what it can and is  booked into April.

Ricky Smith’s Audio in Louisiana says some amplifiers and speakers are still hard to find so it’s still ordering what it can get.  As for this year, “We’re expecting a bit of a decline but we haven’t seen it yet,” said Alan Benit, Manager of the Lafayette store.

Higher product prices are causing Avenue Sound, NY to buy more cautiously. “We’re going to be a bit more conservative. The worry is the vendors, because of the fact they had to increase their pricing, that they’ll price themselves out of the market.  We’re starting to get some consumer push back already,” said Vikas Moolchandani.

Among larger dealers, Custom Sounds said that it is expecting a 7 percent increase in sales for the coming year “over the massive growth last year,” according to Mike Cofield.  Another buyer of a large retailer said, “We currently plan to curb our buying only on amps and speakers where we already got a little ahead of the demand.  We aren’t expecting a slowdown…”


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  1. I expected things to slow down abruptly after the holidays and have been really surprised they haven’t. We are busier than ever and I’m shocked by it, but I’ll take it as long as it lasts. I think it has a lot to do with the whacked out car market. People need cars and dealers don’t have them. And the cars that are arriving at dealers are missing a lot of options that we can add. Most of the dealers I know were selling anywhere from 80 – 130 cars a month pre-pandemic but are now selling 50 a month if they’re lucky. Lack of inventory is driving consumers to buying used (even at inflated prices) and at least right now they’re spending a lot of money to get their used (and even new) car fitted with all the missing tech. I’m sure what shops are seeing also varies widely by region, local economy and reputation. Inflation is definitely a concern, but so far, I haven’t seen it impact consumer spending in our area. Perhaps there is still a lot of income being diverted from other industries like travel and hospitality because of COVID. People may not feel comfortable getting on a plane yet or going out to a restaurant, but they feel comfortable upgrading their car stereo for a road trip. Either way, we’re always preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

  2. Prices will go up after Chinese New Year’s as it always has but with shortage of raw materials & chips this could be a very big increase for car audio. If you have inventory now you will be able to offer better prices and hold than other shops that are buying higher price goods as they come in. With new car prices soaring & used people will either keep cars & Upgrade or buy the Used & upgrade. Unless inflation really takes off where gas is $4 or more per gallon across the country & Food skyrocket’s then we should be okay since people will probably cancel big vacations as they did & not buy new cars. Witch could translate more sales for car audio, Home Audio & personal electronics

    1. Not sure I understand this logic ( probably because it isn’t) but it’s rife at a retail level globally ” I bought cheaper so I can sell cheaper” The fact is you have to replace the sold inventory. This will be at a higher price. If price rises occur ( and they will) but you stocked pre price rise the logical thing to do is sell at the new srp, rrp, whatever your country calls it, and net back the extra margin to pay the bills and afford to order the new inventory. The fixation on “the customer always wants the cheapest” must have fallen on Steve Job’s deaf ears decades ago I guess.

  3. As the leader in our market, Soundcrafters has also seen lighter foot traffic, however, sales numbers remain stable. We don’t expect the windfall business or the onslaught that created the 6-month long, 6-week backlog that we experienced last year after being closed for a few weeks. in 43.5 years we’ve survived 3 recessions and a pandemic. Life is good.

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