HD Radio On Upswing At Some Retailers

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Some leading retailers are seeing double-digit gains in sales of HD Radio car products, although these gains can vary widely by geography and by the promotions invested in the product.

Heavy radio advertising and low $20 to $40 premiums for HD Radio at select price points are helping spur sales of the digital radio technology that had failed to see much growth until recently.

Some retailers said HD Radio has become more popular at their stores than Bluetooth as salesmen start to push the feature — in some cases aided by spiffs from iBiquity, the developer of HD Radio.

iBiquity noted that the JVC KD-HDR20 CD receiver with built-in HD Radio at a street price of approximately $119 is among the top 10 best-selling in-dash radios this year, according to The NPD Group, which confirmed that the unit was the No. 9 seller year to date through July in unit sales.

iBiquity said the JVC KD-HDR20 has similar features to $99 CD radios from leading brands but adds built-in HD Radio with multicasting for the $20 premium.

“The point is what we have now is major brands being sold in more retailers for a year now and the NPD rankings are very high … so that's saying to me that awareness is increasing, and understanding is increasing nicely. It's sort of gelling together,” said an iBiquity spokesman.

Sixth Avenue Electronics in August said HD Radio had been selling well when built into head units since the chain began advertising the feature three to four months prior. As a result, HD Radio was outselling Bluetooth as a head unit feature, said Don Barros, mobile electronics director.

In a follow-up interview, Barros said HD Radio sales are now up by high double digits over last year, but he noted that while sales are strong in Sixth Avenue stores in Philadelphia and New Jersey, they are less vigorous on Long Island.

Kenwood said HD Radio has “been quietly growing” although not uniformly: a statement confirmed by other suppliers. “It's really regional. ABC Warehouse in Detroit, Car Toys in Seattle, and Crutchfield are big proponents … But HD Radio is getting some traction in metro areas because it's being heavily promoted over the radio,” said Kenwood consumer electronics senior VP Keith Lehmann

J.R. Stocks, GM for Freeman's Stereo Video, said HD Radio sales were up earlier this summer but they softened when radio ads in the region subsided. Stocks also noted that there are gaps in availability of HD Radio in midline head units. Typically, the feature is built in to low-end head units and in high-end models priced more than $300, with little availability in between. “If our hottest selling unit had HD, it would sell better: $149 and $199 are the magic price points,” he explained.

Lehmann said more midline head units with built-in HD Radio will become available in 2010.

Car Toys merchandising senior VP Dan Jeancola said HD Radio sales are growing by double digits in both black box add-ons and as a built in head unit feature, helped, in part, by the recession. “The consumer in a challenging economy desires digital radio broadcasts but seems to not want to add another monthly subscription,” he said, adding however, that many consumers still opt for Sirius XM.

Lehmann said another plus for HD Radio is that floor salesmen are starting to understand and appreciate the benefits of iTunes tagging. “The sales floor has finally realized it's a point of differentiation,” he said. But most consumers are still unaware of iTunes tagging and multicasting, he said.


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