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Walmart Keeps Car Electronics Simple

6/07/2010 09:14:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK - As with many of its CE categories, Walmart goes for
the less-is-more approach when it comes to car electronics SKUs.

Locations visited by TWICE kept the car-A/V selection simple and
- not surprisingly - fairly entry-level. They offered switching systems to demo
various combinations of head units and speakers, including subwoofers. And they
featured touchscreen displays that consumers can use to review the features of
specific products and get recommendations for installation accessories.

The stores also split their car electronics selection, with
car-A/V and radar detectors appearing in the automotive department, but
portable navigation devices [PNDs] appearing in the main CE department along
with transportable satellite radios bundled with car kits.

In the past two years, said one leading supplier, Walmart has
been "making its [car-A/V] sections visually more appealing for the walk-up
customer and communicating differences ... more clearly." Walmart also "has also
given the space a more uniform look and more logical price-point steps," the
executive continued. It is "a cleaner more logical approach to steps between
brands and models than they had before."

Nonetheless, said another supplier, "There has definitely been a
pullback in the space allocated and the number of SKUs." The smaller selection,
no doubt, reflects the shrinking of the car-A/V market in recent years

"Car stereo is clearly not a big priority to Walmart," said
Stephen Baker, industry analysis VP for The NPD Group. "[In-car navigation is]
not likely to be an area they're going to go. One of their pushes in general is
to have hotter products and be focused on the bigger trends, such as mobility.

"PNDs certainly fit in that business, and they've expanded a lot
over the past couple year, bringing in personal navigation with a whole display
setup devoted to TomTom, Garmin, that kind of product ... That's a category they
can do very well in," he said. 

Radar detectors had a subdued presence at the storefronts
visited: three SKUs, all $100 or less, all from Cobra.

In car-A/V, a display in Riverdale, N.J., was about 16-feet in
length, with boxed products flanking a switching display that featured 10 head
units, six left-right speaker pairs, and two subwoofers. The in-dash selection
topped out at $400 for a Dual single-DIN DVD head unit with integrated
navigation and motorized LCD screen that emerges from the unit's front panel.
The selection bottomed out at $40 for a mech-less Dual head unit with
front-panel 3.5mm input to connect MP3 players.

Other brands represented were Sony, Pioneer, Jensen, Elite and
Lightning Audio.

The area also included signage that explains the benefits of HD
Radio. - Additional reporting by Joseph
Palenchar