12 volt suppliers and dealers are starting to cut back on orders of head units and other products as sales sink below 2021 levels, returning, for some, to a pre-pandemic pace, said industry members.
Head unit availability is still spotty but dealers say they are able to get most of the products they need.
Two head unit suppliers said they have cut orders to the factory. But a third and leading brand said it has not yet trimmed orders, and while supplies are better, the warehouse is still empty.
“It’s definitely slowing down,” said Harvey Wright of Autosound in Indiana, in reference to sales. He started reducing his product orders at the end of March.
Another retailer said he has been able to take delivery on more radios in recent weeks than for much of the pandemic. “Sony has offered me more radios in the last six weeks than any time in the last two years,” he said noting that product is also flowing more freely from JVC.
Empress Audio & Marine, MS began seeing sales soften in December, although sales are still “way over 2019,” according to President/CEO Floyd Seal. “We’ve been trying to reduce our inventory for all brands in all categories and get back to 2019 inventory. We’re pretty much on an order freeze. We’re way over-inventoried– that includes head units.”
Seal added, “I anticipate it will continue to get slower as the price of gas gets higher. That’s just common sense.”
Another supplier said, “Were still shipping but our phones are quieter…. It’s spotty… Our business is down a little…I would say we’re at 2019 levels.” He has also cut back on factory orders and has switched to slower shipping. “I was using fast boats to bring our product over here. Now we’re going back to standard boat delivery. It’s less money. It takes three or four weeks longer to get it, but the way sales are, I’m not rushed for it,” he added.
Where head units were rare commodities last year, now dealers are starting to offer their surplus radio inventory to other dealers who may be short.
Seal noted that he hopes that better availability of head units doesn’t lead to rampant internet discounting as in the past. “We’ve had a very clean internet in this industry for the last two years. I just hope the inventory levels do not reach a point to where we start seeing dealers dumping inventory on the internet.”
Sales are slowing at Columbus Car Audio, OH in its expediting division. Back in the recession of 2008, 2009, the shop saw its expediting sales nose dive but retail sales kept going. “We would see so many people wanting to fix up their old cars that we promoted ‘Why buy a new car when you can put new tech in the car you love.'” So the 2-store chain has already started promoting the same message, said Todd Hays.
Some dealers said while sales are below 2021, they are still ahead of 2019 sales. But Wright noted that average selling prices are up about 10 percent, so if you are up 10 percent over 2019, you are flat.
Industry members noted that the sales slowdown is hitting just about all of retail as inflation persists and gas prices keep climbing.