Several prominent car audio independent specialists recently launched a new buying group under the name Mobile Electronics Specialists of America (MESA).
The group is member-owned and focuses on marketing and branding. Through pooling marketing expenses, MESA is able to give its members a choice of 10 custom radio ads for $175 for production, as well as an ultra-low-cost cable TV ad, said Mike Cofield, president of MESA and president of Austin, Texas-based Custom Sounds.
In addition, the group hopes to solve some vexing industry issues relating to vendor closeouts and product returns, Cofield said.
Most vendors turn to large chains to handle closeout deals, but MESA will act as a clearinghouse so that vendors can learn within 72 hours whether collective MESA members can handle a large closeout.
In addition, MESA will tackle the returns issue by requiring a top tier of members to bench-test products.
Other members of MESA's board of directors include MESA VP John Coleman, president of Stereo King, Portland, Ore., as well as Rick Snelson, president of Car Fi, Springfield, Miss.; Charlie Weisel, president of The Specialists, Tucson, Ariz.; and Mehdi Narimanian, president of Sound of Tri State, Claymont, Del.
MESA said it will appoint two additional board members within the next 30 days, and vendor partnerships will begin to be announced with the next 10 days.
Narimanian said MESA hopes to attract 50 top retailers.
Part of the inspiration for MESA came from the 12-Volt Awareness Initiative, said Narimanian. “We're finding out that consumers don't exactly know what we sell anymore ... It's taking the 12-Volt Initiative and making it happen,” he added, noting that retailers can often act quicker than vendors.
MESA also plans to launch a national Web site with a ZIP code finder to locate retailers, in addition to radio and cable advertising, said Narimanian. A customized magazine that may be sent to customers is also available, again, at a much lower cost than is typical, said Cofield.
For its part, In Car Experts (ICE), the buying group started in 2006, now with approximately 250 member storefronts, is launching a national Web site with a ZIP code finder to locate retailers in the next 10 days, said executive director Rob Elliott.
MESA will have a two-tiered membership of associate members and owner members. Owner members must share their sell-rate and inventory level with vendors, must agree to report to The NPD Group, and must agree to a rigorous returns and quality-control process that includes bench-testing products.
Cofield said returns are a huge industry problem for both vendors and retailers. It is not unusual that a head unit will be returned to the vendor without a description of the problem, so it is difficult for the vendor to fix the unit. Since the vendor can't find a problem, he returns the unit to the retailer, who puts it in another customer's car only to have the customer return four days later, complaining. MESA will require retailers to report specific defects in returned products to avoid this circle of missteps, said Cofield.