Industry members are launching June 1 what may be the first car audio and electronics buying group.
Called In Car Experts (ICE), it hopes to attract 500 to 1,000 car stereo independent retailers who are the top retailers in their respective markets, according to Rob Elliott, ICE executive director and former owner of Sound Waves, located in the Philadelphia suburbs.
ICE will perform the functions of a volume buying group, and also provide group marketing and advertising and business training.
Elliott said the group “has been a dream of mine through many years as an independent retailer to level the playing field and show the vendors that we can be real businessmen.”
He is joined by David Schwartz who is vendor relations director for ICE. Schwartz has been a manufacturer's rep in the Mid-Atlantic region for 22 years. Sitting on the ICE board is Richard Glikes, the executive director of the Home Theater Specialist Association (HTSA) buying group, and Michael Stephens, director of Car Audio Masters (CAM), a car audio buying group in Australia.
Elliott noted that CAM has attracted about 20 percent of the 12-volt independents in Australia over five years. He estimated that ICE will be able to attract 5 percent to 10 percent of the estimated 10,000 to 12,000 independent specialists in the United States.
ICE appears to be part of a growing movement in car audio, voiced at the recent Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association KnowledgeFest, calling for increased professionalism on the part of 12-volt retailers. Elliott notes that one of the key themes on the minds of retailers is that vendors give preferential treatment to big-box retailers. “Our focus will be on becoming the businessmen that will get the loyalty of vendors,” Elliott said.
Part of the goal of ICE is “to increase the overall business acumen of our retailers,” by drawing on Elliott's 12 year's experience as a retailer, he said. The group will be selective in its membership and will place requirements on such areas as installation. It will also offer training that extends from an installer tool check list to tips on securing cable TV advertising, Elliott said.
On June 1, a list of requirements for prospective members and applications will be posted on the ICE website at www.incarexperts.com.