It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

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It's not all doom and gloom: Westminster Speed & Sound

By Mr Retail

A common theme I am hearing from retailers, reps, and vendors is “It’s all doom and gloom out there.” And while the business climate has changed significantly compared to 18 months ago, I sincerely believe that now is the time to look for opportunities and catch market share in a challenging marketplace.

When times are tough, people start to panic. And then one of two things happen; they make poor business decisions or they buckle down and take market share. Please remember this one thing. Any car audio retailer that has been in business for over 20 years and is doing well has done so by accomplishing one thing; getting a bigger and bigger piece of a shrinking market.

I wrote an article back in August saying that our business was up year to date.  I talked about how I was investing in advertising, and I believe that is part of the reason that we were up for the full year 2023 over 2022, even if it was only by a little. My gross profit was up significantly over last year as well. We raised our labor rate by $30 per hour last year after speaking to a pair of friends on the shore ( you know who you are). We also went through our pricing and made sure our retail prices and margins were in line with any increases we may have had over the last four years. Let’s not forget that our pricing went up on many items way before the pandemic because of the tariffs.

I also went back to negotiating with vendors. We are now at a point where vendors have inventory that they need to move and if you can give them a solid business plan, many are willing to negotiate pricing with you if it makes sense for them. This simply increases your bottom line in an instant.

Doom and Gloom
Mr Retail gives advice on gaining share in a challenging market.

We were up for the month of January over last year. That coincided with the worst weather we have had here in four years.  Please know I am NOT typing this to boast at all. I am stating it to give you hope. My store is not in an uber rich market and my town is 14,000 people. I am 30 minutes outside of Baltimore and draw heavily from that area after years of networking.

The core car audio industry as we know it is a lot smaller than it was 20 years ago. But I meet new people every day that tell me they never knew you could get truly great sounding music in a vehicle. Yesterday we wrapped up a Wrangler with an upgrade for a personal friend. He is a successful financial planner and very astute with his money. So, a $3k audio upgrade would typically be out of the question for this guy. His Jeep has the premium sound system and he is also a drummer. When we tinted his windows a few months back, a seed was planted. After a phone call and then in-person consult, I said this to him; “Try an upgrade one time. If you don’t love it, don’t do it again. But I am confident you are gonna love it.”

I spoke to him while he was on the way home from our shop and asked him how he liked it. As we talked, I said, “You have more output for the top down summer driving, better clarity, and real bass. What’s not to like.” He completely agreed. I imagine he will now upgrade every vehicle in the future, and for him, money is not an issue.

What is all of this telling you? I hope it is screaming “go find the money.” It is out there. People are spending it, and some folks are spending lots. You just have to get off your cute butt, move from behind your screen and start networking with people. Get your staff to have ‘transfer of enthusiasm.’ Pull out or go find Eddy Kay, Dell Ellis, or whatever sales training got you motivated years ago. I believe in you.

Mark Miller (Mr Retail)

Mark  is the CEO of Westminster Speed & Sound, an award-winning retailer in Westminster, Maryland. The company was founded in 1969, and Mark took it over in 1990 at the age of 23. He first started in the industry in 1986, so he has been at it for a while. He has served on the board of MERA, taught seminars in over a dozen different cities, and served on the SEMA New Product Awards judging team. He has been married to his wife Dawn for 33 years now and has four grown children and four grandchildren. His hobbies include being a sound engineer, doing life coaching, and being active in the local and national Porsche community.

Photo: Mark Miller

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  1. Can someone please tell this to the higher ups at Best Buy? They seem more than happy to give away what market share they’ve gained over the years. Bleh.

  2. Great article as always Mark. I miss working with you. Another thought is to host some educational sessions for clients so that they can come in and learn more about the latest technologies in safety and sound. Think of these as “clinics” and maybe offer to do a free “check up” on the clients existing system. Partner with your reps and vendors to help fund the event.

  3. Spot on Mark. For you retailers, especially independents, if you are worth your salt and represent your company as professionals with the look, the knowledge and service protocols in place, you may be worth more than you presently are. Look at car dealerships in your area and see what they charge per hour. Now compare that talent to that which you have in house to those that simply change parts or modules.
    if you are a pro shop with experienced, moreover certified techs, your people are so much more diverse and talented than dealership techs. You cannot plug into an OBD port and have it design a sound system or suggest accessories.

    Some of you who may not have attended an Eddie Kay sales seminar (or even know who he is); the takeaway that sums it all up is what Eddie Says: “all things being equal, the consumer will buy the cheapest price, Make it unequal. Elevate your company to shine above the “competition”, become the competition! Jan 1st we raised our hourly rate up by $20 to 150.00 per, with very little challenging feedback. Sell over M.A.P. Why should we meet online prices? If you know you are worth it, take a stand and prove it.

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