NEW YORK - As with many of its CE categories, Walmart goes for the less-is-more approach when it comes to car electronics SKUs.
Locations visited by TWICE kept the car-A/V selection simple and - not surprisingly - fairly entry-level. They offered switching systems to demo various combinations of head units and speakers, including subwoofers. And they featured touchscreen displays that consumers can use to review the features of specific products and get recommendations for installation accessories.
The stores also split their car electronics selection, with car-A/V and radar detectors appearing in the automotive department, but portable navigation devices [PNDs] appearing in the main CE department along with transportable satellite radios bundled with car kits.
In the past two years, said one leading supplier, Walmart has been "making its [car-A/V] sections visually more appealing for the walk-up customer and communicating differences ... more clearly." Walmart also "has also given the space a more uniform look and more logical price-point steps," the executive continued. It is "a cleaner more logical approach to steps between brands and models than they had before."
Nonetheless, said another supplier, "There has definitely been a pullback in the space allocated and the number of SKUs." The smaller selection, no doubt, reflects the shrinking of the car-A/V market in recent years
"Car stereo is clearly not a big priority to Walmart," said Stephen Baker, industry analysis VP for The NPD Group. "[In-car navigation is] not likely to be an area they're going to go. One of their pushes in general is to have hotter products and be focused on the bigger trends, such as mobility.
"PNDs certainly fit in that business, and they've expanded a lot over the past couple year, bringing in personal navigation with a whole display setup devoted to TomTom, Garmin, that kind of product ... That's a category they can do very well in," he said.
Radar detectors had a subdued presence at the storefronts visited: three SKUs, all $100 or less, all from Cobra.
In car-A/V, a display in Riverdale, N.J., was about 16-feet in length, with boxed products flanking a switching display that featured 10 head units, six left-right speaker pairs, and two subwoofers. The in-dash selection topped out at $400 for a Dual single-DIN DVD head unit with integrated navigation and motorized LCD screen that emerges from the unit's front panel. The selection bottomed out at $40 for a mech-less Dual head unit with front-panel 3.5mm input to connect MP3 players.
Other brands represented were Sony, Pioneer, Jensen, Elite and Lightning Audio.
The area also included signage that explains the benefits of HD Radio. -
Additional reporting by Joseph Palenchar