San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
With the Northeast currently melting in the sun, it’s hard to remember that just a few short months ago remote-start installers were finally breathing sighs of relief as they wrapped up their installations. TWICE spoke with a number of retailers and manufacturers about the 2010-2011 season, nearly all of which had good things to say.
Marcus Solt, owner of Direct Connection in Brodheadsville, Pa., confirmed that this had been better year for sales. “I was up about 15 percent,” Solt said. “I did a little different advertising but I think people were more open to spending money. Last year I had a lot people fighting me over price — this year I didn’t have that.”
Not surprisingly, the brutal winter weather helped draw in otherwise reluctant customers. John Zambarano, president of Audio Illusions in New Rochelle, N.Y., said his sales were good this year. Although he does see sales year-round, “Nobody wants to suffer through the cold.”
Solt agreed. “Last year it was warm until almost Christmas, and this year it snowed a few times before Christmas. I think that might have helped. The week after Thanksgiving [was when] I start to see it pick up,” he said.
This uptick in sales proved to be a double-edged sword for many retailers as they then needed the manpower to do the installations. Solt said it took him until the end of March to catch up although he stopped selling at the end of January.
Retailers weren’t the only ones feeling the “pain” of higher sales. Mike Northup, president of Auto Page, called it an “excellent” remote-start season. However, he noted, “The only disappointment about this year’s season is that we under-forecasted. Coming off two years of recession, we weren’t sure about how much inventory to forecast. As it turned out, we under-forecasted, and we had sales that approximately 25 to 30 percent more than what we forecasted. So we had a difficult time filling the pipeline.”
Northup agreed that the early brutal winter was like a main driver for sales, and he also cited rising consumer awareness stemming from car manufacturers supplying remote start as original equipment.
“We are far from saturating the market of this product,” he added.
Tom Malone, president of Audiovox, also confirmed that the company had had a strong season. “Probably one of the best in several years … It was strong in all of the key markets and it was across all product ranges. Varied price points, the entry level right up through the higher models.”
He echoed Solt’s installation concerns. “The retailers we spoke to, their biggest issue was having enough time to handle all the installations. It’s making sure they have their installers trained, the bays freed up … I know a lot of them had that positive complaint – ‘We are so busy, it’s insane.’ ”