12-Volt Dealers Take Control
With all of the negativity being generated by the 12-volt industry—decreasing prices, margins, foot traffic and vendor support; overdistribution of product; cut-throat online competition; lack of consumer awareness—you’d think independent retailers and installers couldn’t survive through the month. Think again.
While all of the above are true and have made survival more difficult each day, there is enough good news in the industry, including an increase in audio sales, to give some optimism to 12-volt skeptics. “There are a lot of bright spots out there,” confirmed Ryan Gunter, executive director of the Mobile Electronics Specialists of America (MESA), a 12-volt buying and marketing group with about 25 members representing 88 storefronts.
Although all of the dealers we spoke to temper the good news with the bad, they point to a number of things that are giving them hope for a decent year: Smartphone and Bluetooth integration; consumer willingness to spend; Pandora; interest from a new demographic, including women; and that strong bump in audio sales.
The most successful dealers during the last few years have grown used to taking more matters into their own hands. After being shunned by many of their once loyal vendor partners—who cut back or got rid of dealer programs and placed more importance on volume over value during the recession—dealers have winnowed the number of brands and inventory they carry and have focused on creating their own marketing programs to drive sales.