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Sales Decline Slows Among Top 25 Car CE Retailers

NEW YORK – Car electronics sales generated by the nation’s top 25 car electronics retailers declined in 2014 but at about half the rate of the previous year, TWICE found in compiling the latest list of top sellers.

The top 25’s collective retail-level sales, excluding installation revenue, fell 5.5 percent in 2014 to $2.91 billion, compared with a 10.3 percent decline in 2013. The 2014 drop, nonetheless, still exceeds 2012’s drop of 2.1 percent and 2011’s drop of 3.2 percent.

The retailers’ sales figures are based on data gathered by TWICE’s research partner, The Stevenson Company. The sales include car audio and video products, in-dash navigation systems, portable navigation devices (PNDs), radar detectors, and aftermarket security/convenience systems.

For the sixth consecutive year starting 2009, the aggregate volume of the top 25 retailers fell from the previous year, Stevenson found.

The retailers’ collective 5.5 percent drop, however, fell largely in line with the industry as a whole, based on the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) wholesale- level statistics. CEA found industrywide wholesale volume down 5.8 percent to $1.68 billion in 2014.

In 2013, the top 25 retailers collectively fared even better relative to the industry, with the retailers’ sales dropping 10.3 percent compared with an industrywide wholesale-level decline of 12.3 percent.

CEA’s statistics include car audio, video, installed navigation, portable navigation devices (PNDs), car security/convenience sales, and radar-detector sales, as do the retail-level sales for the top 25 retailers.

Who’s On First?

Among the top 10 retailers in 2014, Best Buy remained on top despite a 4.9 percent decline in its car electronics business to $754 million. The decline, however, was less steep than the appliance/electronic retailer’s 2013 decline of 14.7 percent

Best Buy has been No. 1 since at least 2009, when TWICE resumed tracking retailers’ car electronics sales after a brief lapse.

For their part, Amazon, Walmart, and RadioShack held onto their second-, third- and fourth-place ranks even though their sales fell by 2.8 percent, 12.5 percent, and 10 percent, respectively.

Five of the other six retailers in the top 10 rose in rank, with Costco going to fifth from sixth, Crutchfield to sixth from eighth, Sears to eighth from ninth, Audio Express from 10th to ninth, and Fry’s Electronics from 11th to 10th. Car Toys retained its seventh-place rank.

Target, meanwhile, plummeted in rank to 14th from fifth, while the remaining top 25 retailers moved up or down a notch or two.

Who’s Up?

Among the top 25 retailers, only nine posted sales gains, and they included a mix of retail types.

Retailers that sold and installed only mobile electronics were well-represented in the group posting gains.

The gainers, in order, are:
• catalog showroom Cabela’s, up 8.9 percent;
• car electronics specialist Mickey Shorr, up 6 percent;
• camera retailer Beach Trading Company, up 5.3 percent;
• car electronics specialists Car Toys, up 4.9 percent;
• consumer-direct electronics retailer Crutchfield, known for its over-the-phone and web-based installation assistance, up 4.4 percent;
• car electronics specialist Audio Express, up 2.1 percent;
• regional electronics/appliance retailer Electronic Express, up 2.9 percent;
• regional appliance/electronics chain ABC Warehouse, up 2.9 percent; and
• warehouse club Costco, up 2 percent;

Who’s Down?

Two thirds of the top 25 retailers posted a sales decline, with sales falling at 16 of the top 25 retailers.

The biggest losers, in order, were:
• mass merchant Target, down 36.4 percent;
• home-office chain Staples, down 15 percent;
• multiregional appliance/electronics chain Fry’s Electronics and mass merchant Walmart, each down 12.5 percent;
• electronics retailer RadioShack, down 10 percent;
• direct seller Newegg, down 9 percent;
• multiregional appliance/electronics chain P.C. Richard, down 7.7 percent;
BJ’s Wholesale Club, down 6 percent;
• mass merchant Kmart, down 5.5 percent;
Best Buy, down 4.9 percent;
Bluestem Brands, down 3.5 percent; and
Amazon, down 2.8 percent.

Sales at Sears, Sam’s Club, QVC and AutoZone also fell but at lower rates.

List Landers & Losers

Companies that made the 2014 list after failing to win the honor in 2013 are regional appliance/electronics retailer P.C. Richard and camera retailer Beach Trading Company. Companies that fell off this year’s list but were on the previous year’s list are autoparts chain Pep Boys and Sam’s Club.

Channel Changers

Among the top 25 retailers as a whole, dollar shares by sales channel changed little in 2014 from 2013. The channel with the biggest change was the mass merchant channel, which posted a 1.7 percentage-point drop in share to 20.6 percent from 22.3 percent.

The consumer-direct channel posted the next biggest change, but the change was positive. Share rose 0.9 percentage points to 25.8 percent from 24.9 percent.

Miscellaneous posted the next-highest share gain to 7.5 percent from 6.8 percent. The segment includes car electronics specialists Car Toys, Audio Express and Mickey Shorr, along with Auto- Zone and Beach Trading Company.

Appliance/electronics stores gained slightly to garner 28.5 percent of the Top 25’s sales vs. a previous 28.3 percent, and continued to hold the largest share. The figure combines the shares of regional and multiregional appliance/electronics retailers, including those that sell furniture.


The TWICE Top 25 Car Electronics Retailers Report ranks the leading domestic dealers by sales of car electronics to consumers.

Sales figures are based on information supplied by retailers responding to a 300-dealer survey by TWICE and research partner The Stevenson Company. Absent retailers’ input, estimates were developed from Stevenson’s internal market tracking surveys (TraQline), industry sizing based on wholesale shipment figures from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and other sources, plus average retail price points by product.

All estimates were further refined through the use of public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), TWICE industry analyses, retail analysts’ financial reports, published data and other external sources. Once the estimate was determined to be a reasonable assumption of the retailer’s CE sales, the figure was broken out by product category based on the TraQline surveys.

Sales figures by total and by category for 2013 were then compared with 2013 sales tallies and adjusted if necessary to more closely track total reported revenue growth.

Businesses must meet the following criteria to be considered car electronics retailers and to qualify for inclusion in the Top 25 report:
• sells new products directly to consumers;
• has physical retail store locations, or has a significant online presence;
• sells car electronics products as one of its principal lines of business;
• does not offer car electronics products primarily to sell its transmission services, i.e. wireless carriers, cable operators, satellite radio/TV providers; and
• sells merchandise that is considered car electronics products as defined by the CEA.

Sales are considered to be the revenue received for the products sold primarily to consumers, including hardware and accessories.

Respondents were also instructed to exclude revenues received for installation services, repair services, rentals, extended-service contracts and vendor marketing support, as well as sales to the business, government and education channels.

Based on The Stevenson Company’s proprietary methodology, a refined baseline was developed for this annual project effective with the 2005 Top 25 Car Electronics Retailers Report, our first collaboration, covering the years 2003 and 2004. Therefore, comparisons with Top 25 reports issued prior to 2005 would be imprecise.

The Stevenson Company, based in Louisville, Ky., began as the global economic analysis and research department of GE Appliances. Now independent, the market research firm has served the consumer electronics and major appliances industries for the past 20 years by developing markets sizing and market share estimates.

Its TraQline syndicated quarterly survey of 150,000 shoppers measures retail purchases of consumer durables and provides estimates of unit and dollar market share and other key measures.

What Is A Car Electronics Product?

As defined by the Consumer Electronics Association, here is a breakdown of what constitutes a car electronics product and what was included in the Top 25’s sales totals:

Car electronics: speakers, in-dash radio/audio/video receivers, amps, satellite radios, radar detectors, alarms, GPS, mobile TVs, video monitors, backup/night-vision camera kits, DVD/Blu-ray Disc players, CB radios and remote starters.