San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
Qualified 12-volt installers have been hard to find for years, but recent changes in the market's dynamics has caused the problem to heighten, especially among high-end installers, according to some retailers.
Isaac Goren, owner of Sounds Good, Woodland Hills, Calif., said high-end installers are “a dying breed. For the last three years we've been bringing them in from different states, countries and continents, or offering to sign papers to bring over their families. We need people with experience, knowledge and understanding of computers and who know how to take a car apart.”
Stephanie Bagwell, Dominion Radio, Richmond, Va., agreed. “The trade is going away. It was a pretty good trade years ago, but it's not as glamorous now. There's not as much custom work. Its just upgrading what comes from the factory.”
Several industry members said that the business has become increasingly segmented over the past five years between those who perform standard, perfunctory installations, and top-notch installers who do fabrication. The fabrication jobs are increasingly rare, so talented installers are leaving the industry, they said.
Gary Biggs, application specialist for Harmon and champion installer, explains that newer wiring harnesses and kits have made most installations very simple. “[Fabricators] don't have a place to use their craft. The need for super high-end installers is less than it was even five years ago. If a customer comes in with a new BMW or Mercedes, what you can do with it is very limited so you don't need to have a super high end installer. Before you had to be a woodworker, an upholsterer.”
Steve Laplante, GM for Jo-Di's Sound Centers, Hartford, Conn., agreed, “It's worse than it's ever been.” Laplante says the problem isn't solved by increasing salaries. “We're paying people more than we've ever paid people … No one comes into the business like they used to. Young people today are enamored by their computer, not their car.”
The problem was confirmed by an informal survey taken at the Mobile Electronics Retailers Association. (MERA) KnowledgeFest in March. MERA's VP Floyd Seal said retailers cited finding qualified installers as their No. 2 concern, second only to OEM integration.
MERA stated it is taking action to help solve the problem by creating an electronic bulletin board for members. As several installer training schools are MERA members, MERA will start posting graduates' names on its Web site so that retail members can contact them directly. The bulletin board should be available this summer, said Seal.