By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast it hit a prime territory for autosound, and many industry members are organizing help for dealers and the general population in the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama region (see stories p. 1 and p. 16).
Several manufactures, including SoundGate, are offering free product to restock stores if and when the stores are able to reopen.
As Ron Freeman, VP/COO of Clearwater, Fla.-based AAMP of American, noted, “It's a great car stereo region. There are a lot of competitors out there.”
The Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA) is in the process of organizing relief efforts to 12-volt stores in the area and is looking into setting up a hurricane relief task force, said president Harvey Wright, CEO of Autosound of Lexington, Lexington, Ky. “MERA is an organization of small retailers and our hearts go out to all those little guys who are struggling. It's a tough business now as it is, and then to have this. The biggest problem we have right now is there's no communication, so there's trouble figuring out whose store is still standing.”
Stores such as Empress Audio, Pascagoula, Miss., owned by MERA's board member Floyd Seal, were damaged and looted and remained without power as of press time.
In addition to fund-raising efforts on the part of MERA and the industry, MERA is “exploring the idea of creating a rebuilding team of installers and industry members, which can go in and help the stores when they get to rebuilding.”
“I would say car stereo is going to take a pretty hard hit in that area because it's a luxury item, not a real necessity for people,” said Wright.
The disaster holds a personal poignancy for John Mancina, the New Orleans rep for Sunbelt Associates, Carrolton, Texas. Mancina organized The Consumer Electronics Katrina Relief Fund, which is supported by MERA and other industry members, and had received over $25,000 in pledges as of Sept. 7. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Custom Sounds, Austin, Texas, also reportedly shipped 1.5 tons of goods into the area.
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