San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
Radar detector suppliers are expecting sales to meet or exceed last year's $170 million due to new features and improved performance.
According to Cobra product manager Tony Kainuma, "We expect the industry to do better this year based on first-quarter results — the sales have been good — where in other commercial products such as cellphones and cordless, the sales were not strong. We'll at least make the 2000 figures and we expect some growth."
Retailers said it was too early in the season to forecast sales for the year, and reported a mixed bag of results.
Best Buy buyer Mike Manske said, "Radar's been pretty flat, but what we have seen is that consumers are going to higher-end goods and our average selling prices (ASP) are up. We brought in a couple of products to go after higher-priced tickets — an Escort top-of-the-line 8500 — which is doing very well, as is a high-end Cobra. People are looking for reliability."
Crutchfield said its January-through-April business was up over last year by 20 percent in dollars. But senior VP of merchandising Dan Hodgson noted the trend "is more a function of the lack of product availability last year." He added that average selling prices were down 4 percent due to normal competitive pressures.
Suppliers hope that the new "combination" detectors shipping this summer, that add features such as GPS and weather radios, will help boost ASPs.
Uniden's new GPSRD will ship in August. It combines a full-featured detector with GPS. The GPSRD reads out latitude and longitude coordinates and offers limited navigation functions. Users may enter the coordinates of certain destinations to receive directions via arrow commands. It also has a top-speed display, preprogrammed city coordinates, an electronic compass, average speed display and readouts for estimated time of arrival and distance remaining.
The GPSRD also offers 360-degree laser detection, an anti-falsing database, L2 and L3 detection, X, K, KA super-wideband and SWS alert. It is VG2 undetectable and is expected to ship in August at a suggested retail price of $249.
Cobra said it is looking at adding GPS but is concerned about pricing. "We're looking into GPS but at this point, based on what our competitors are doing, the price point is simply not feasible," said product manager Tony Kainuma.
Cobra's new ESD 9220WX combines a 10-channel weather radio with a 9-band radar detector. It picks up seven National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather stations and three international channels and issues a warning tone for weather alerts such as hurricanes or tornadoes. Suggested retail price for the unit is $189.95.
Whistler's new combination model is the 1770. It receives NOAA and National Weather Service (NWS) channels and alerts and issues a warning tone or voice message broadcast of such alerts. The unit also has text readouts for SWS messages, emergency alerts and band detection and issues voice alerts for radar detection. The all-band detector has separate volume controls for radar and weather alerts so the user can have the audible radar toned down and still hear the weather alerts at a high volume. There is a separate squelch for the weather alerts. The 1770 ships in May at a suggested retail price of $179.95.
Other suppliers, such as Escort and Beltronics say they are focusing on improved performance rather than extra features.
Beltronics VP of sales and marketing Donal Rich said that consumers get confused by the extra features and are more concerned with the basic issue of avoiding a traffic ticket.
"We've had comments come back to us from our major national retailers stating that the consumers enjoy the novelty of an electronic compass with a radar detector, but they are not willing to pay any premium to get the feature," he said.
Instead the company is focusing on its new performance guarantee, which offers to lab-test its radar detectors and to exchange any of its units if they do not measure up to Beltronics' performance claims. Beltronics is shipping this month its new Express series that is aimed at first-time buyers. It includes four models at price points between $99 and $169. The Express 906 is an LED unit, the 916 adds a digital numeric display, the Express 926 adds full voice and performance upgrade and the Express 936 has a text display as well as voice.
Escort claims that its new 8500 is one of the best performing detectors available and that it is having trouble keeping the unit in stock. The 8500 is particularly sensitive to the KA band, which by next year will account for half the radar guns in use, according to sales manager Tim Coomer.
"According to Craig Peterson, founder of radartest.com, about 50,000 of the 100,000 radar units in use will be KA band by the beginning of next year so detectors superior in KA will deliver better performance. "They don't make X-band guns anymore but a lot of detectors out there depend on X-band sensitivity," said Coomer.