By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
MIAMI BEACH , FLA. — A/V specialty marketers and dealers polled at the PARA conference agreed that over-the-counter retail growth slowed considerably during the first weeks of April after a whiff of weakness in March. But the custom-install business, though hit by the economy's weakness, is holding up a little better.
Definitive Technology sales VP John Miller described first-quarter over-the-counter retail growth as "good," but growth "trailed off in March," and the first two weeks of April were "flat to down."
Some custom dealers found customers revising their contracts down to delete frills, Miller noted. Escient president Bob Pankratz agreed.
Equity International president Peter Wellikoff described April retail sales as flat to down, with custom "up marginally," in part because some custom customers have cancelled their contracts.
Niles sales VP Frank Sterns said some installers are finding that the number of new custom contracts is falling. April's over-the-counter retail sales, he said, were "slower than usual."
At least one installer, however, said his custom business hasn't turned down yet. Although April retail sales were falling, installer and consultant Eric Bodley said the amount of new custom business is holding up.
Roger Heuberger, executive director of the PRO Group, also sees a weakening retail climate. In March through mid-April, he said, the group's combined A/V sales were rising, but not as quickly as they had during the year-ago period.
In audio, Heuberger said, growth was weak in February and March, with growth among members ranging from flat to a 10-percent rise. During those two months, video was growing at a faster rate than audio, he said. In March, however, "video began to sag," followed by a "terrific" softening during the first two weeks of April. During April, audio growth moved "closer to flat."
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