Autosound Tackles Tough Issues at KnowledgeFest

By Amy Gilroy On Mar 21 2005 - 8:00am

Facing business challenges squarely and proactively was among the key themes at the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA) KnowledgeFest this month.

During a keynote address, MERA's president Harvey Wright encouraged retailers to examine several hard facts — that the Internet is here to stay, that big-box retailers will continue to dominate basic bread-and-butter business, that CD player sales will continue to shrink, and that OEMs will not retreat.

To counter these trends, he said, retailers must beef up professionalism, including MECP certification. The industry may face legislative challenges in the future on auto safety because OEMs are tying car safety features (such as seat-belt chimes) into the radio panel. “It's a big issue. If we do not prove we are a professional group with [MECP] certification, legislation will be upon us,” he said. The push for certification was echoed by other industry members during the MERA conference.

To address falling CD player sales Wright encouraged retailers to push “trunk forward selling,” or designing amp and speaker systems around a factory head unit (vs. the reverse order of selling a CD player first).

Wright also presented the aftermarket with several challenges.

To retailers, he said: “We're just selling volume and bass. Sound quality has to be the utmost. When you sell sound quality, you make a customer for life.” And he asked retailers to “educate the customer about products coming out. Embrace new technology even though the profit margins may be different.”

To manufacturers, Wright said, “Bring on the new technology. I've been kind of disappointed, seeing the same product with different face plates and nothing truly innovative. OEM is in many ways ahead of us.”

He further challenged, “Demand that your products are sold and installed by professionals. And if you are going to have a dealer agreement that says no transshipping, enforce it.”

To reps, Wright said, “You need to be a lot more of a partner to retailers. Can you say that every retailer you sell is fully prepared to sell the products? When was the last time you helped a dealer with inventory, not just selling; or helped him put together an advertising plan? Most dealers are running around like chickens with their heads cut off and don't have a lot of time for these.”

Wright also encouraged retailers to selling the experience of car sound, just as Harley Davidson dealers sell the experience of riding.

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