12V: Mobile Electronics Leaders’ Town Hall on COVID-19
As I write this, the COVID-19 epidemic is getting worse and I hope by the time that this reaches you, that the crisis is letting up. On March 23, Tony Dehnke of 12v.biz (you can check out his mobile electronics store scheduling app) put together a “Mobile Electronics Leaders” conference call. It was a place where store managers, owners and industry leaders were invited to discuss the current state of affairs and speak candidly. Members of the media were invited to listen in, but asked to keep coverage anonymous, as there were sensitive conversations about keeping stores open where a shutdown was not in place. Here are some takeaways and nuggets from the call, which spanned two hours.
One retailer was very positive, saying, “There will still be guys with disposable income, despite all the doom and gloom.” The owner was contacting people with non-essential cool cars, or fun weekend toys such as motorcycles, side-by-sides and boats, and letting them know now would be a great time to drop those vehicles off for an installation. If the shop were shut down to the public, there would be plenty of work to do in the back with the promise of those customers getting an extraordinary job done on their cool rides with the extra time afforded by a business shutdown. Another retailer chimed in if you have done work for any construction companies, now would be a great time to suggest rear camera or safety systems while the fleet is grounded. Still another added that emergency lighting always sells during an emergency, so check with your municipality if there are any new vehicles that will be put into service.
Another part of the discussion talked about the challenges of shipping and getting product. Some deliveries were now requiring someone to physically be at the location for the delivery to take place. One manufacturer noted they wanted orders to go out now so if there were a shutdown, the product would be there to take on the aforementioned already-booked jobs and terms could be figured out down the road.
Retailers were all sad, because this March had been turning out to be a stellar month for the industry across the board. One retailer noted, “I hate to lose this momentum, as I was set up for my best March on record.” But the reality was most retailers across the country would probably be shut down at some point, except for in states where there is a grey area because they are deemed an essential business. It was noted, “Then, it becomes a choice whether you stay open or not, but don’t break the law.” One opportunity for those retailers staying open was that big-box retailer Best Buy ceased installations across the country for the time being. Those shops that were deemed essential businesses were adamant about keeping sanitizer in the showroom at multiple locations, and making sure the sales floor never got overcrowded. One retailer even said they posted a sign on the door that said call this number, and we’ll come out to your car and get you to make sure the showroom floor has the minimal amount of people. That one-on-one care and personal service sure would go a long way in a sale. However, a few retailers were going to shut down altogether even without a ban, noting, “There could be a potential backlash if we do stay open, and we have our families to think about and potentially bringing something home to them. Closing in this situation we just feel is the right thing to do.”
Some retailers now have the opportunity to run their business in a way they only dreamed of. A Virginia retailer noted, “I am now getting deposits to reduce no-show installations and keeping reservations – especially if I am ordering product for the install that isn’t on the shelf.”
Another retailer said, “I think the positive thing we can take from this is people are going to miss the newfound family time they had with their kids once this is over. Road trips are going to become more popular to get out of the house. I have never seen so many bicycle racks. Mobile video and in-car entertainment should make a comeback.”
A retailer who was shutting down justified it like this: “How long does it take to train a new employee vs. one of my star crew members? I don’t want anyone getting sick. Losing a star crew member to illness is not only very sad, but financially crippling.” One manufacturer summed it up best, saying: “I hope we all come out of this slightly wounded but able to heal and learn from the experience.”