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Car Groups See Business Rebounding

NEW YORK — Car electronics retailers are beginning to see better times, and they have strong promotion and marketing efforts to thank for it, according to the two industry buying groups TWICE spoke with.

When TWICE last highlighted the In Car Experts (ICE) and Mobile Electronics Specialists of America (MESA) groups in 2012, the industry was still regrouping after a brutal recession and some retailers were just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While some are still experiencing challenging times, both groups reported strong performances from their members, and both were excited about heightened consumer awareness of in-vehicle technology.

Rob Elliott, ICE executive director, said more than 80 percent of its members had double-digit growth this year. Acknowledging that such success seemed “hard to believe,” Elliott said, “They find the same challenges everyone else does, but they are able to cope with it better.”

ICE and MESA each welcomed new members to their ranks, and they rolled out new benefits to all of them in return. Ryan Gunter, MESA executive director, said the group’s digital signage program has gone into full swing, with 81 locations featuring a 46-inch TV that can be used for promotions, training and — soon to come — interactivity.

MESA is gearing up for its fall training and networking summit meeting, being held Sept. 9-12 in Austin, Texas. The group also offers vendor partner programs, quarterly promotional opportunities and inventory-management tools, among other benefits.

ICE implemented its own video program for members this year — known as ICE TV — that creates promotional and educational videos retailers can show their customers. The group also formalized its ICE Bootcamp program, which Elliott described as a two-day interactive training program, and is launching mobile websites for members this year.

Gunter and Elliott both said that car OEM involvement with in-vehicle technology should be seen as an opportunity for their members. “A lot of these OE car commercials aren’t even talking about the car until the last minute,” Gunter said. “They’re talking about Pandora, Bluetooth, integrating smartphones — things we do. It’s heightened awareness for us.”