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NPD: Car Stereo Falls 22 Percent

2/02/2009 03:25:00 PM Eastern

New York — Car audio/video aftermarket sales, excluding portable GPS, declined 22 percent in units and 24 percent in dollars during 2008, as the industry reels from both OEM competition and recession.

The results from The NPD Group follow years of continued declines in car A/V, including a 19 percent drop in 2007 and a 13 percent to 14 percent drop in 2006, both in unit and dollar sales to consumers, according to NPD.

 In response, the market is downsizing, with Panasonic and Audiobahn exiting the aftermarket and retailers closing their doors. Blaupunkt's car audio business was also sold by Bosch to a German holding company, the Aurelius Group in December.

A study of the Phoenix region by market consultant Paul Gosswiller found that 40 car-stereo-related retail storefronts have closed since January of 2007, including 13 Circuit City outlets, leaving 17 specialist outlets remaining, plus Best Buy stores.

Approximately five or six independent storefronts have each closed in Austin, Texas, and St. Louis over the past two years, estimated Mike Cofield of Custom Sounds in Austin. The Mobile Enhancement Retail Association (MERA) has seen more than a 50 percent decline in membership, from 600 retailers in 2001 to less than 300 members, now, according to president Barry Vogel.

 There are, however, a few bright spots in the market. The departure of Circuit City has created an opportunity for some specialists. In addition, recent research is pointing to a potential area of industry growth in connecting iPods and other gadgets to the car, according to the 12 Volt Initiative, which is seeking to confirm this trend and then create a promotional campaign.

Also, a few new cars are offering basic models that exclude radios but are prewired so that consumers may add one later.

MyerEmco, which had reduced advertising for the category last year, said it is now pursuing autosound more aggressively. Dave Glassman, purchasing VP, said, “I think we have an opportunity because Circuit City left and Tweeter closed in our immediate market. We’re going to carry a couple more SKUs than we were, and we’ll advertise it. We didn’t advertise mobile a whole lot last year.” He added, “We’re seeing more people come in asking about car audio because there are fewer places to get it.”

InstallerNet, which coordinates a network of 3,000 installation outlets, said it is benefiting from the demise of Circuit City’s Firedog service operation. InstallerNet has received a half-dozen inquiries from suppliers looking to service or install their goods, said William Sheehan, business development director.

One leading retailer said dealers will be challenged this year to better manage inventories as suppliers will likely limit their production runs to slightly above retailer pre-orders.

JVC mobile VP Bill Turner said the strategy this year for suppliers to is to gain share.  “The car stereo business is going to continue in 2009 so products must be sold — it’s a market share game. Everyone knows it and everything we’re doing now is to bolster our market share.”

Some suppliers claimed they are bucking the trend, including Kenwood, which said its sales were up last year by a few percentage points in dollars due to strong sales in in-dash navigation.

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