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Car Buying Groups Tuning Up Programs

5/08/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — While all industries were
hit hard by the recession, the car electronics
sector took a special hit and
some of its retailers are still struggling
to climb out of that hole. The category’s
buying groups, which count In Car Experts
(ICE) and the Mobile Electronics
Specialists of America (MESA) among
its ranks, have spent the year trying to
bolster the marketing and promotion efforts
of its members.

ICE, which boasts 150 members and
about 200 showrooms, said its members
are still finding business to be
challenging in the so-called recovery.
Rob Elliott, ICE executive director, said
the members in cooler climates, in particular,
“found the mild winter to put a
damper on remote-starter sales.”

However, ICE counts 19 vendor partners
for its group, and Elliott noted that
members’ business with those partners
is up. He said ICE has been encouraging
members to stay focused on average
selling prices during the economic
recovery, as well as their core vendor
partners.

Elliott said “hot” drivers behind ICE
dealers’ surprising growth include resurging
demand for sound quality.
“[The] need for content and convenience
has been filled, and many consumers
want the sound they get from
their headphones, premium-sound
OEM systems and home-theater systems,”
he noted.

ICE members receive a variety of
benefits for joining the group, including
their own personalized website that is
updated at least weekly by ICE, as well
as marketing promotions, a preferred
vendor program, credit card processors,
mystery shoppers and discount
programs they can pass off to their customers.

The 43-member Mobile Electronics
Specialists of America (MESA) also
services car electronics retailers and
counts 15 vendor partnerships for its
133 retail locations. Executive director
Ryan Gunter told TWICE that the first
quarter of this year has been very strong
for its members. Although the second
quarter hasn’t been quite as robust,
they are expecting it to be “the calm before
the storm … we fully expect to pick
back up.”

Integration has been the hottest
growing category for MESA members, he said. “They still do well in the multimedia
navigation business, but iPod
and cellphone integration is an ongoing
growing category for the members.”

Member benefits for this buying group
include TV and radio advertising, exclusive
promotions with MESA vendors,
email and printed sales materials, very
important relationship (VIR) programs,
networking opportunities, monthly
member conference calls, and access
to cost-of-doing-business analysis.

Gunter said the group is getting
ready to launch its digital signage program,
which will place a 46-inch TV in
all locations. The TV will be controlled by MESA from its home office, and is
scheduled to have interactive capabilities
within the first year.