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Custom Sounds

7320 N. Mopac Expressway, Suite 309, Austin, Texas 78731

(512) 418-9293,

Mike Cofield, President

Annual volume: Over $10 million

Number of stores: 17

Product Mix: Mobile audio/video, window film, and accessories

Austin, Texas— In the 12-volt world, Custom Sounds is regarded as an icon of specialty retailing.

Much of the credit goes to president Mike Cofield, according to other retailers, who say he never stops tweaking, refining and when necessary, changing all aspects of the chain, which he co-owns.

Cofield says he’s run Custom Sounds like a major corporation since the first store opened here in 1987, and yet the stores retain a boutique flavor.

In the past five years Custom Sounds underwent a growth spurt, reaching 17 locations, up from seven, in the markets of San Antonio and Austin, Texas, as well as St. Louis, Mo.

Cofield says the key to successful expansion has been his corporate approach, readiness to change and first-hand involvement.

“We were the first to have a really structured merchandising strategy, and to this day ours is the most definitive, better than Best Buy, Circuit City or any of those places. When someone goes to sell a 6 by 9 they know they should sell this one first, this one second and that one third. Same for 6-inch, and 4-inch [speakers]. They have the ability to increase their wages by over 50 percent by selling the right merchandise at the right price.”

Cofield says his chain is known for “having the very best looking stores with a real emphasis on the sound rooms and making them sound good.” The company created demo rooms exclusively for the fast-growing car video segment, and said sales were up 150 percent in car video last year. In line with its attention to detail, Custom Sounds designs its own demo rooms rather than using a custom display house such as MTI.

However, Cofield keeps a fastidious eye on the bottom line. “We’ve always had a corporate philosophy of being very lean and mean. We have virtually no middle management. I’m the president and the No. 2 guy who is a VP works on the sales floor. He sells every day. I’m the only manager we have that doesn’t sell on the floor other than the inventory control manager,” he noted.

To help stay lean and mean, the store invested in a point-of-sale/accounting software package called Panasoft, which allowed the company to more than double in size without adding a single office staff person, Cofield added.