NEW YORK —
The 2011-2012 winter was not a good one for kids longing for snow days, snow plow owners longing for seasonal work, or — not surprisingly — the remote-start industry.
Despite an early freak snowstorm in the Northeast in late October, which prompted some retailers to load up in anticipation of another brutal winter, the remote-start category wasn’t given any help from Mother Nature. This was doubly unfortunate for a category that’s already often viewed as a luxury item in the soft economy.
“Everyone knows the weather was not cooperative for vibrant remote-start sales,” Tom Malone, president of Audiovox Electronics. “Certainly, it had an impact on the sell-through. Our sell-in was good. Our dealers and distributors all stepped up and bought a lot of inventory in anticipation of another good year because last year was such a good year. I know they were disappointed in their sell-through.”
Mike Northup, Auto Page president, concurred: “We were off in the months of November, December — basically in the meat of the season, which is November through February. We’re off about 20 percent in unit sales [compared with last year].”
“We’re finding our retail dealers still have a lot of inventory they haven’t moved,” he said.
Northup noted that although the straight remote-start products were down, the devices bundled with security features still did quite well for Auto Page.
“The remote-start security products still did quite well, and that doesn’t surprise me. Those products are not necessarily as seasonal as just the ones that are strictly remote start,” he said.
“Everything else — higher-end, top-of-the-line two-way alarms and remote start —didn’t fall off. That was pretty flat from last year.”
Despite the lack of help from the weather, both Mwalone and Northup were optimistic about the category’s prospects next year.
“We think next year everything will bounce back to normal,” Northup said. “Hopefully the recession … will be over. Things will start to be bouncing back overall, not just during the winter months.”
Malone noted that while “everything suffered to a degree,” he didn’t think “it was a bad year by any means and not for many of the dealers and distributors we spoke to. It just was not a great year, and it wasn’t going to be.”
When asked what Voxx has in store for next year, Malone said the company was focusing a lot more on the look of the actual transmitters, which is something they’ve spent more time on in the last few years.
“That’s the only thing the consumer sees — that’s how your product will jump off the retail shelf,” he said. “If the consumer likes the transmitter, and it feels good in their hand and is solid … a lot goes into that.”
Malone also noted that Voxx’s remote-start devices are “a very mature group of products,” and said they are going to continue to evolve in small ways. This includes the company’s Car- Link technology, which he called “an education for our dealers.”