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December 2020

me-mag.com

Greg’s Custom Audio, Video & Car Stereo is thriving amid recent challenges.

It’s a Virtual World With the advent of this month’s online-only KnowledgeFest.Live, retailers share their perspectives on cyber education in the wake of COVID-19

PLUS

The 12-Volt Experience: Revamp your retail showroom for optimal customer satisfaction and increased sales Lasting Impressions: Alpine’s Mike Anderson discusses new products and high hopes for the future


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Volume 52// Issue 12

Articles

20 14

20 Retail News 56 Installs

Departments

FEATURES 14// What’s Happening: The Cyber Classroom

During the spread of COVID-19, in-person training events and trade shows have shifted to online platforms. Retailers discuss the pros and cons of learning in a cyber setting.

32// Real World Retail: Greg’s Custom Audio, Video & Car Stereo

Greg’s Custom Audio, Video & Car Stereo has found its niche by offering something for everyone, with personalized service, multiple 12-volt categories— and even a specialty gift shop.

42// Learning From Leaders: First Forward

Mike Anderson discusses his career accomplishments, and how Alpine Electronics of America continues to innovate during uncertain times.

46// Strategy & Tactics: Shining Showrooms

Considering a showroom makeover, but not sure where to start? Retailers discuss five main strategies for designing a showroom which is sure to welcome clients and help them find exactly what they’re seeking.

52// Tech Today: Vehicle Safety and Parking Sensor Systems

In order to successfully sell parking sensors, retailers must understand placement on the vehicle, options, installation techniques and how to explain these products to clients.

On the Cover COVER DESIGN: Ana Ramirez COVID couldn’t keep them down: Greg’s Custom Audio, Video & Car Stereo in Pikeville, Ky. has found a winning formula for connecting with a wide array of customers, even during challenging times. Besides offering multiple services for customers’ vehicles, the shop also features a boutique store called Tammy’s Corner, where visitors can purchase unique gifts. Additionally, the shop continues to grow in the powersports category.

4  Mobile Electronics December 2020

6 Editor’s Forum 8 Feedback

Ad Index

Accele.......................................................p.2&3 Alpine Electronics..................................p.41 AudioControl.............................................p.31 DD Audio.....................................................p.49 Directed.......................................................p.59 Escort...........................................................p.9 Firstech - Compustar..........................p.61 Harman - JBL............................................p.29 InstallerNet...............................................p.62 JVC.................................................................p.17 Kenwood.....................................................p.19 Kicker............................................................p.11 Knowledge Fest .....................................p.39 MECP............................................................p.37 MEA-Industry Awards........................p.35 Metra Electronics...................................p.23 Orca - Focal...............................................p.27 Rockford Fosgate...................................p.7 Sirius XM......................................................p.12 SounDigital................................................p.25 USASPEC.....................................................p.51 Vais Technology......................................p.13 Vision Zero.................................................p.55 Voxx Electronics........................................p.5


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EDITORS FORUM TODAY, I CHALLENGE YOU TO PAUSE AND REFLECT ON THE MANY BLESSINGS WE HAVE, AND SEEK TO MEND ANY DAMAGED FRIENDSHIPS.

THANKFUL

finding blessings in the midst of chaos. All of us have our own stories about the challenges we faced this year. It seems as if no one has escaped the pandemic effect. However, we all have something to be thankful for, too. Regardless of your situation, it’s important to pause and perhaps reflect upon things for which we can be thankful. You see, being thankful doesn’t mean you enjoyed the situation. But it does mean that, in the end, you understood and met the challenge, leaving you appreciative that you either overcame it or learned a valuable lesson that helped you grow personally, professionally or both. My opening subtitle states, “Finding blessings in the midst of chaos.” When I think of chaos, I look at the many things at work to divide us. I found it heartbreaking that topics in the daily news left us arguing with each other. The complete lack of understanding by those who were chosen to lead us through this pandemic contributed to the confusion. Some news outlets reported good information while others reported not-sogood information. As a result, many of us argued these points amongst ourselves. Many of these arguments played out on social media. Otherwise rational people chose sides and defended what they believed to be the truth. While I enjoy a robust and engaging discussion as much as the next person, this went beyond reasonable discussion. I spoke to many who lost friends in these arguments over topics such as medical and political information. This was the chaos to which I referred in my opening subtitle. Yes, the pandemic, riots and political posturing were not the only things that produced chaos. The real chaos was related to all of those we’ve lost over the past year. Those for whom we can only seek to honor their memories. For those who’ve lost someone or something this year, I can only say that I am truly sorry

6  Mobile Electronics December 2020

you had to bear the brunt of the heartbreak produced in part from this pandemic. I also opened this column with the title “Thankful.” Why? Where is the blessing, the silver-lined cloud we seek? I am thankful for my family, friends and those of you who are part of the family we call our industry. I know every industry has unique attributes which give it an identity. But when I say I am thankful, I refer to the mobile electronics industry. We are unique in ways I have not experienced in other industries. Our identity is rooted in our desire and actions to help and support others in time of need. Arguments aside, I believe the blessing is in our actions to reach out and lift up those in need, those torn by forces out of their control. Acts of kindness greatly outweigh the chaos and go a long way toward defining who and what we are as an industry. This year nearly all of us have suffered loss and disappointment in some way. In that, we have grown closer as an industry. We have also reaped the blessings of increased awareness and business which have in turn provided for our associates and our families. Today, I challenge you to pause and reflect on the many blessings we have, and seek to mend any damaged friendships, because it’s important that we be there for each other and support one another in times of need—regardless of differing opinions. I look forward to the New Year, to new beginnings and to blessings I know we’ll have as we continue to grow together to produce the awesome experiences that only our industry can provide.


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 feedback

CAREFUL PLANNING

Every situation is a learning experience. Retailers advise planning carefully and maintaining good communication.

ADVERTISING SALES sales@mobile-electronics.com

EDITORIAL Rosa Sophia Managing Editor 978.645.6466 • rosas@mobile-electronics.com Chris Cook Editor-at-Large Creative Layout and Design: Ana Ramirez Contributing Editors: Jamie Sorcher and Laura Kemmerer

Published by TM

mobile electronics association

Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • chrisc@mobile-electronics.com Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • richb@mobile-electronics.com Tony Frangiosa, Chairman of the Board, MEA

“Make sure you’re planning the installs ahead of time, and that tech and sales staff are working together closely on quotes. We need to communicate and plan our jobs ahead of time and make sure our quotes are detailed. If you miss a product or don’t have a contingency plan and haven’t done the research, things can be especially bad and could unravel a large ticket.” Joshua White, AutoFX, Tacoma, Wash. “It’s a crazy time—just stick with it. We are using more email blasts, Constant Contact, and keeping up-to-date with customers.” Milton Warren, Delmarva Two-Way Radio, Inc., Ocean City, Maryland “Take every experience as an opportunity to learn.” Steven Gechunis, Enhanced Installations, Dickson City, Pa.

8  Mobile Electronics December 2020

1) Title of publication: Mobile Electronics. 2) Publication No.: 957-170 6. (ISSN#1523-763X) 3) Copyright © 2019by the Mobile Electronics 4) Date of filing: Oct.1, 2019.5) Frequency of issue: Monthly. 6) No. of issues published annually: 127) Annual subscription price: $35.00. 8) Periodical postage paid at LawrenceMA and additional mailing offices. 9) Complete mailing address of known officeof publication: 85 FlagshipDrive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 10) Completemailing address of the headquarters or general business offices of the publisher:85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 11) Full names and completemailing address of Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor: Publisher: Chris Cook,85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845; Editor/Managing Editor:Solomon Daniels/Rosa Sophia, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 0184512) Owner: MERA, Mobile Electronics Retailers Association, 85 Flagship Drive,Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 13) Known bondholders, mortgages, andother security holders owning or holding 1% or more of total amounts of bonds,mortgages or other securities: None. 14) Tax Status: Not applicable. 15) Name ofPublication: Mobile Electronics. 16) Issue date for circulation data below: October2018. 6. a) Total no. copies (net press run) Average: 10,237 Single Issue; 12,826.b) Paid/Requested mail subscriptions Average: 6039, Single Issue: 7346. c) Paidsales through dealers, etc.; Average: 0. Single issue; d) Requested distributed byother classes of mail: Average: 435, Single issue: 520. Total paid and/or requestedcirculation; Average 6039. Single issue: 7346. e) Nonrequested distribution bymail; Average: 3593Single issue: 4223. Free distribution through other classesof mail: Average: 0, Single issue: 0. f) Non-requested distribution outside the mail;Average: 267. Single issue: 750. g) Total nonrequested distribution; Average3860, Single issue: 4973. h) Total distribution; Average: 9,899. Single issue: 12,319.i) Copies not distributed; h1) Office use, leftovers; Average: 338. Single Issue; 507j) Total; Average: 10,237. Single issue; 12.826Percent paid and/or requestedcirculation; Average: 61.01%. Single issue 59.63%. 17) POSTMASTER: Please sendaddress changes to Mobile Electronics, 85 Flagship Drive Suite F, North AndoverMA 01845-9998


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 stats

FROM YEAR TO YEAR

Specialty Retailer Performance in 2020 as compared to 2019

The Mobile Electronics Association took a closer look at specialty retailer performance in 2020 as compared to 2019. Here are the findings. KEY OBSERVATIONS • The last eight (8) months of the year saw double-digit percentage increases* • The first four (4) months of the year saw decreases with March and April seeing double-digit decreases.

• After all this, despite inventory shortages, the industry is seeing record growth and is poised to continue into 2021. (*December and Q4 2020 projected)

*2020 vs 2019 Total Up 12% 10  Mobile Electronics December 2020


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BOOK: In Case You Get Hit By A Bus: A Plan to Organize Your Life Now For When You’re Not Around Later BY ABBY SCHNEIDERMAN AND ADAM SEIFER WITH GENE NEWMAN

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. So here is your step-by-step program for getting your life in order so you’re ready for anything. The odds of getting hit by a bus are 495,000 to 1. But we are all going to die someday, one way or another, and that’s why taking control of details is so critical and takes the burden off your loved ones. The experts at Everplans, a leading company in digital life planning, offer their insights in this easy-to-follow book. Tasks are broken down into three levels from urgent (granting access to passwords), to technical (creating a manual for systems in your home), to nostalgic (assembling a living memory). According to the authors, getting your life in order is truly liberating and, with this guide, totally manageable

SITES TO SEE: New York International Auto Show Traditionally held each spring, the NYIAS is one of the premier shows in the U.S. With COVID wreaking havoc with industry calendars, it’s been rescheduled for August 20- 29, 2021. One benefit is that show producers can take advantage of the newly expanded Javits Center which adds 100,000 square feet of continuous exhibit space to the main show floor. The 2021 event will feature an enlarged 110,00 square-foot indoor electric vehicle test track, giving automakers a chance to showcase a wide range of electric cars, trucks and SUVs.

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 What’s Happening

In-person training events and trade shows have shifted to online platforms in the wake of COVID-19. Retailers discuss pros and cons of education in a cyber setting, and their hopes for the coming year. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA Due to COVID-19, some decisions regarding meeting with retailers have had to be made on a case-by-case basis, according to Mike Lewis of Echo Sales. The company is a rep firm covering seven states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. “Under normal circumstances, our business is set up to call on independent accounts,” Lewis said, adding that they also host trainings to support retailers. This year, he noted the company started to stock more inventory themselves, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because of all the backorders. According to Lewis, Echo Sales has had to approach their day-to-day business in a hybrid fashion. “A couple of months ago, they removed some local restrictions,

14  Mobile Electronics December 2020

but we were still being cautious,” he explained. “We were only visiting accounts with specific needs. I was focusing a lot of my travel around afternoon and evening trainings. Now we are back in more of a hybrid again, not traveling as much, and I’ve put offers out to do Zoom meetings, but most conversations have been on the phone.” There are certain things, he added, that must be done in-person— for example, it’s necessary to visit a new account to see the store. “If we do go somewhere, though, we’re very specific about what we’re doing.” A year ago, the company moved into a new facility with a dedicated in-house training space, but because of COVID-19, only one training has been held there and everything since has been held on Zoom.

“Early on, we hosted trainings to help people navigate PPP, the Payment Protection Program, and various other things that were so uncertain in the beginning. Now it’s dialed in to more specific product trainings, mostly vendor-hosted on Zoom.” The Pros and Cons of Virtual Training Lewis feels the trainings help keep people informed, and help vendors stay relevant. More trainings are being held than usual. However, things could be more efficient, he added, noting that it’s hard to gauge the metrics of it: “You don’t have that conversation afterward, sharing feedback you couldn’t get during the meeting.” Instead, he said, people say thank you and goodbye, and leave the virtual meeting. “When you’re in-person,


The Cyber Classroom

One year ago, Echo Sales moved into a new facility and created an in-house training area. Because of COVID-19, only one in-person training has taken place there. Everything else has been hosted on Zoom.

attendees are more likely to say what they are thinking.” Body language is also a factor, he said. “You can tell by a person’s body language whether or not you’re hitting a hot button. You just don’t get that in an online setting.” Dave Clews of 12Volt Dave’s Audio in Pottsville, Pa. said that while online trainings have been effective and useful for him, he misses the camaraderie of in-person events. “I also miss the ability to actually pick up the product and get a sense for it hands-on,” he added. “That’s lost in an online presentation.” Additionally, an added perk of an in-person training class is being able to go up to the presenter afterward and ask more specific questions. Clews said he feels this can be important for someone who’s newer to the industry and doesn’t necessarily want to ask a question in front of other people. “I’ve been that new guy in the class,” he added, noting that he’s gone up to the presenter after the class to “ask a question I worried other people might laugh at.” Most recently, Clews has attended Directed and Compustar vendor trainings online and learned a few things he didn’t know, despite having been in the industry for many years. He said there is a plus

side to online trainings, though: “It does streamline the education because you don’t have as many in-class distractions.” The presentations used slideshows and were well-done, he noted. “Remote start is just key fobs and a black box and some wires. If it was something else—like an amplifier or a speaker—I think I might be disappointed because I like to pick it up, look at the build and feel the structure.” Lewis noted that technical issues have been a problem during virtual trainings. Vendors who have been more consistent about hosting meetings have learned the tricks, he added. “There are frequent difficulties with people being unable to get in, hearing echoes and background noise. When vendors realized they could mute everyone and save questions for the end, meetings went much more smoothly,” he explained, adding that these disruptions are very similar to people talking during a presentation in an in-person classroom setting. Industry Events Shift to Online Format Like vendor trainings, online trade shows—like this month’s KnowledgeFest.Live—and other industry events have shifted to an online platform. Kimberly

Trainer, owner of Car-Tunes, Inc. in Greenville, Miss. said she misses the networking element. As a MESA member, Trainer has attended a number of MESA Summits over the years, but this year the event was held virtually. Trainer said she feels everyone did the best they could to present the material. Part of what she enjoys about in-person events is the same camaraderie Clews mentioned: “Everyone has a different perspective on what’s being presented,” she said. “The lack of networking between other professionals in our industry is a negative to virtual training, but considering what we’ve been dealt, I think everyone did a great job at the MESA Summit to make things as interactive as possible.” This year, Trainer said the Summit was a little different. Traditionally, it’s for owners only. “This time,” she explained, “we divided the Summit into two different sections. Instead of being with everyone for a couple of days, we ended up with a couple of hours one afternoon for all the owners, and the next afternoon, we brought in sales and installation staff and had presentations geared toward that agenda.” Trainer said this was a first. “We made

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 What’s Happening

12Volt Dave’s Audio in Pottsville, Pa. recently participated in vendor trainings from Directed and Compustar. Owner Dave Clews, pictured, said he misses the camaraderie of in-person training events.

Bryan Schmitt of Mobile Solutions presented a training on installation procedures and tools to increase efficiency during this year’s MESA Summit. Pictured: The staff of Car-Tunes, Inc.

them feel included,” she said, adding that for her staff, she had pizza, snacks and drinks brought in and gave each of her team members a MESA t-shirt and hat. “Even though we couldn’t be there in person, we attended all the virtual trainings on an LCD screen. It’s like bringing the presenter into the business. We did that on a Sunday afternoon. We normally close that day, but we came in on our day off and made a big afternoon of it.” Bryan Schmitt of Mobile Solutions presented a training on installation procedures and tools, according to Trainer, who added, “There’s always something you learn that makes you think. Either you already thought about trying it but haven’t yet, or maybe it’s something you realize will complement another procedure you’re already doing. These things can increase efficiency and revenue.” However, Trainer noted, the downside to this kind of training is being unable to walk to the front of the room and handle the equipment or tool being discussed. “You retain so much more when you learn in person,” she said. Another topic of discussion at the MESA Summit was the sales process. The Car-Tunes, Inc. staff is entirely crosstrained, so everyone took part. “We talked about sales in the sense of how you approach the whole art of selling,” Trainer said, adding that she thinks this is something that needs to be discussed more in the industry. “People in our industry don’t always get down to the nitty-gritty of the different ways to read and understand the complex nature of human beings coming into our stores,” she explained. “The human interaction is our advantage against the Internet. It makes or breaks a sale.” Paving a Path Forward Lewis said that along with having to deal with product shortages, there’s also been a shift in priorities. Normal practices—such as regular visits to retail locations—have to be approached differently in this new landscape. “I’m used to going out and seeing things,” he said. “When you can’t, you don’t know the big picture. I feel that way about online training, too.” He compared his experience as

16  Mobile Electronics December 2020


The Cyber Classroom

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 What’s Happening

The MESA Summit is traditionally owners-only, but this year, an additional education track was added for installers and sales professionals. The staff of Car-Tunes, Inc. participated, enjoying pizza and snacks during the event.

18  Mobile Electronics December 2020

a rep to hosting a Wednesday night men’s Bible study: “Early on, we always met, and then we met exclusively on Zoom.” When they were able to meet in person again, he said, they sat outside and made a bonfire. This led to a realization for Lewis. “You have to be in front of people to really understand the deep emotion they’re experiencing,” he said. “Take that to your retailers. Call them up and ask how they are doing. What are they going to say? What someone says is often completely different than what you see, so I think that’s the biggest challenge—not being able to see, and knowing that most people aren’t going to reach out unless they really need it. They might say they’re doing great, but they probably need some help with something. And without going there in person, we have no way of knowing for sure.” There are things they may not bring up on the phone, “For example, how are their displays doing when they’ve been pillaging them for product during this time?” Trainer feels that challenges sparked by COVID-19 may cause some older businesses to rethink their formats. “The playing field is different now,” she said. “I think it’s causing more people to reach out virtually.” Trainer foresees increased emphasis on online training in the future, and pointed to the new Industry School, presented by industry veterans Solomon Daniels and Kerry Moyer, which will be opening its virtual doors this coming January. “Something like that has the potential to become a permanent fixture in the industry because so many people will be able to take advantage of it who didn’t have the means before if they had to travel—either it was too costly, or they didn’t have time.” This is the next best thing for an individual or a business who wouldn’t have been able to attend in-person, regardless, she added. “I do think that’s something that will change. I see online training sticking around. There is an important place in the industry for something like the Industry School in the future. Every day, everything is changing, so our skills have to change along with it.” Trainer recalled a recent conversation with her son Dalton— also an installer at Car-Tunes—who said he’s grown more in 2020 than in any other year. Trainer believes that uncomfortable situations like those the industry has faced this year help to instigate growth. “Even if we have to learn virtually and out of our comfort zones, we will still be better than we were before.” In the future, Lewis hopes to see online trainings continue to increase in quality, placing added emphasis on consistency in sales approaches. He feels the most important aspect of sales trainings is to teach retailers how to present products to the customer in a compelling, clear manner. “It’s one thing to know about the product,” he added, “but they have to be taught how to sell it, too.”


The Cyber Classroom

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 retail news

WORDS BY LAURA KEMMERER

KarTele Mobile Electronics Refreshes Look with Shop and Showroom Remodel Waterbury, Conn.-based KarTele Mobile Electronics recently celebrated the completion of its shop and showroom remodel, a 15-month venture that both refreshed the business’ look and proved to be a challenge with the disruption of the pandemic. Owner Mike Hungerford noted that since he took over the business, the change was

something he wanted to do from day one. “It had been here for 23 years when I took over and it looked exactly the same. It opened in 1994,” he said. Before the remodel, when a customer walked in, they would be looking at the side of a counter. Now the counter is pushed back, facing the customers and the waiting area. This helps customers

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feel welcome and helps boost sales. Audio is on one side of the room, and additional categories on the other side. “The day I took over, I looked around and felt it could use a refresh, so I started with the shop area. Got that organized, set up, painted. More efficient,” Hungerford said. “More productive. Everything where it needs to be. We laid down an

epoxy floor because we do a lot of vehicles and with the snow, the epoxy floor is so much easier to push the water out, and no dust, which is awesome.” In terms of remodel work that needed to be done, the previous cabinets were old. “We refinished them and added new hardware and a new top,” he said. “That helped keep the cost way


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down and we were able to customize to suit our needs. Now all the installation supplies are hidden, the drills are behind doors, everything always looks neat and clean.” Hungerford also wanted the waiting room to be comfortable. The overall aim for the remodel was to have something in place that was reminiscent of a high-end dealership. It took eight or nine months of planning to get all of the details just right. Another reason Hungerford wanted to remodel was to help distinguish KarTele from other businesses in the area. The primary challenge for this project stemmed from keeping the shop open while also tackling remodel work. According to the shop owner, a number of customers thought the shop was closed due to the pandemic. There were many late nights spent working on the remodel. Hungerford even hand-stenciled the logo on the shop floor. “Window tinting was another reason for remodeling the shop area. We used to have a regular cement floor, and you could sweep this thing five times and still get another pile of dust and dirt out of the cement cracks, so we redid the floor to cut down on that.” Like a number of other mobile electronics businesses, KarTele has been thriving even with pandemic shutdowns. Hungerford attributes the record year to customers having savings or income set aside for a vacation, but instead chose to go for vehicle upgrades.

The pandemic has impacted a number of businesses, and according to Luis Matos of Matcom Group LLC, sometimes what you need to do to save your business is to keep an eye on your pennies and dollars and call in some extra favors. “I find that watching and trimming your overhead when necessary can make a huge impact on your business in these times we’re going through,” Matos wrote. “Don’t just watch the dollars. Watch those pennies at the end of the year. It could make a huge difference. You would be surprised.” Matos also recommends that at least for now, hold off on purchasing those cool new toys for your business—at least until things are better. He also recommended asking your family and friends for help in promoting your business. Calling in those extra favors can help draw in business when you need it the most.

806 Autoworks Celebrates Four Years in Business In November, Amarillo, Texas-based 806 Autoworks celebrated four years in business. Though the pandemic prevented any kind of formal celebration from taking place, business has still been holding strong, though like many other businesses, 806 has struggled with product shortages. “When I opened the business four years ago, I never thought it would grow the way it did. I thought four, five, six years down the road, I might be doing

what I did in year two, but instead it just exploded. I wanted to do something no one else had done in Amarillo,” said shop owner Bryan Turvaville. “I wanted to give the customers a customizable experience. I didn’t want to just have displays with tons of product in it, and say, ‘Okay, pick something.’ I wanted to sit down with each customer and say, what do you want to do? How do you want your system to sound? What do you expect out of your investment?

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 retail news I wanted to sell them the system they were looking for, not just a product on a shelf.” Turvaville said the business has grown from a $16,000 initial investment to $400,000 in gross sales this year alone. He also hopes to eventually acquire more space for expansion. “This past year we teamed up with another company, West Texas Linings. He was completely mobile when he started. He joined us here, and then we offered window tint, spray-in bed liners, vehicle graphics—everything he did. With the

partnership, and the growth we’ve had this year, we want to add another 2,000 square,” Turvaville said. The business has grown from doing car audio and remote start and truck accessories to adding leather kits and full custom packages. Turvaville is focused on trying to grow well, but not too quickly. Currently, the shop’s top categories are car audio and remote starts. One of the most important things he said he’s learned is that good business owners should delegate things. Hire the

right help. He also emphasized, however, that owners shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, as there will always be issues. “Get a solution, execute the solution and move on. If you let it stress you or rule what you do, you’ll fail,” Turvaville said. “But if you take it in stride, and take each issue one at a time, it’s a lot easier to manage. Remember that saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Photo Credit: Yahaira N. Lopez

A.C.T. Audio Celebrates Apprentice’s Birthday A.C.T. Audio recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of apprentice Ethan Deer working with the company. When Deer turned 18, the shop celebrated with a small company get-together before the pandemic worsened again. Business owner James P. Smith emphasized that Deer is a fantastic tech. “I can give him any job, and he will get it done 100 percent or ask the right questions to get it done. He loves this job, he’s an all-star, so we gave him a little birthday

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celebration, a surprise for him,” Smith said. Deer has worked in various departments—including detailing, accessories, remote start, audio and motorcycles, among other work, but he doesn’t enjoy tinting all that much. The party was both to celebrate Deer and bring the industry together. “I had Nick Frazier of iNNovative Concepts come, I had Mike Hungerford and his wife come and I had Jonathan Mercado and his girlfriend come,” said the owner.

Though these are competitors, Smith noted that he wanted to see more of this coming together in camaraderie in the industry. Smith noted with humor that Deer’s first damage claim was rather bad, and so the birthday cake was made to look like the door of the vehicle Deer had damaged. Pictured in the group photo from left to right: Ethan Deer, Dan Holben, Victor Cunha, Carlos Santos, Mike Tracey, Whitney Russell and James P. Smith.


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ďƒŽ hot sellers

While consumers continue to focus on nurturing a comfortable, entertaining experience in their vehicles, retailers introduce them to products that offer value and reliability. 24  Mobile Electronics December 2020


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 hot sellers Alpine ILX-W650 Digital Multimedia Receiver Submitted by: Mike Lewis, Echo Sales, Grayslake, Ill. Main Selling Features: “Because of the price point, we can easily add another item to the sale. We typically add speakers, but frequently sell the KTA-450 amp that bolts onto the back of the W650. With one radio, we merchandise two price points (with and without the amp). This lowers our inventory cost because we don’t have to stock another price point receiver, and it offers far more profit when stepping up to the addition of the amp, since the amp margin is greater than the receiver margin. The ILX-W650 sounds great, too, and consumers feel they get everything they’re seeking at an excellent price point.” Primary Objection: Additional parts required. How to Overcome: “We explain that the specific vehicle requires an expensive kit or interface. Our goal is to integrate into the vehicle’s electronics seamlessly.”

Sony XAV-AX8000 Digital Multimedia Receiver Submitted by: Richard Snyder, Tri State Auto Accessories, Southaven, Miss. Main Selling Features: “This offers a large, clear, easy-to-use screen.” Primary Objection: Missing features. How to Overcome: “The biggest complaint we have when pitching this product to potential clients is that it protrudes from the dash. We overcome this by showing it in vehicles, and many times showing pictures of multiple angles in the customer’s specific vehicle.”

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 hot sellers

Pioneer DMH-2600NEX Multimedia Bluetooth Car Stereo Receiver Submitted by: Gary Probst, Keith Electronics, Lock Haven, Pa. Main Selling Features: “Customers want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.” Primary Objection: Additional parts required. How to Overcome: “We will give the customer a total price including installation in the vehicle, and we also add an additional year warranty.”

K40 Electronics Platinum100 Series Portable Radar and Laser Detectors Submitted by: Paul Zaccaria, StreetStyle Inc., St. Charles, Ill. Main Selling Features: “This is a quality American-made product from a great company and comes with a ticket-free guarantee.” Primary Objection: Price and learning curve. How to Overcome: “We demonstrate how well the product works. We discuss the average cost of a speeding ticket versus having a quality radar detector, and how you can’t afford not to have one.”

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 hot sellers Rockford Fosgate P500-12P Punch Series 12-Inch Subwoofer Enclosure With 500-Watt Amp Submitted by: Matt Murray, Audio Source Inc., Columbus, Ind. Main Selling Features: “This is a simple and cost-effective way to get a good amount of bass output.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “We describe the installation process to our customers.”

Stinger HEIGH10 10-Inch Modular Touchscreen Media Unit Submitted by: Kimberly Trainer, CarTunes, Inc., Greenville, Miss. Main Selling Features: “This screen is packed with features, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM ready, Bluetooth and HDMI. This one really hits home, and there’s also a very inexpensive navigation add-on that a customer can purchase now or later.” Primary Objection: Additional parts required. How to Overcome: “The parts are a modest expense for the results you will get with this feature-filled gorgeous screen.”

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SMALL TOWN CHARM

Greg’s Custom Audio, Video & Car Stereo has found its niche by offering something for everyone, with personalized service, multiple 12-volt categories, and even a specialty gift shop. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

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FAST FACTS Main Location: Pikeville, Ky. Number of Locations: 1 Square Footage: 4,914 Type: Traditional Retail Number of Employees: 5

MAIN FOCUS 40% Car Audio, Remote Start and Accessories 30% Powersports, Motorcycle and Marine 20% Truck Accessories, Tires and Wheels 10% Home Audio and Video

KEY STAFF Owners: Greg and Tammy Tackett Store Manager / Sales: Larry Martin Service Manager / AV Installer: Greg Osborne Installation Manager / Sales: Chris Coleman Bookkeeper: Tammy Tackett

F

rom the time he was a teenager, Greg Tackett worked in the electronics business with his father and uncle. The family business persevered as a tire shop, doing mechanical work for 20-plus years. It wasn’t until September of 2007 that Tackett and his wife, Tammy, found a place to rent where they could finally open their own business. Greg’s Custom Audio, Video & Car Stereo welcomed customers for the first time in November of that year in Pikeville, Ky. After years of renting, the business purchased its own building a short distance away from the previous location, opening on the second of January, 2019. This was momentous, Tackett explained, because for eleven years, Greg’s operated out of a single-bay garage that wasn’t even large enough to accommodate a crew-cab truck with the bay door shut. Now, the shop has two full-size climate-controlled bays and plenty of room

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to expand into additional categories. The building needed a lot of work which is ongoing today. “My wife walked in and said, ‘There’s no way we can do this,’” Tackett recalled. “This was right before Christmas. We had until December 31 to get out of our old place. That day, we got out of our old location at about 10 at night.” Since the community is a small one, Tackett said a lot of people knew the business and the situation, but they also utilized Facebook, Instagram and local radio shows to spread the word. Along with car audio, remote start and accessories, the shop offers truck tires, wheels, powersports, motorcycle and marine audio, as well as home audio and video. As a mom-and-pop retailer, Tackett said all employees chip in when it comes to cleaning, stocking shelves, inventory management, delivery, sales training and more. And the staff sticks around, too—with an average tenure of about eight years.

Tammy’s Corner and Radio Shack Provide Increased Revenue There’s another side to the business that offers a unique shopping experience: a little store called Tammy’s Corner, which Tackett said his wife created out of an old garage bay. In the beginning, he admitted he didn’t think the little store would garner much attention. However, the opposite has proved to be true. “Men will come in and buy a stereo, and they’ll go into her store and buy a gift or an outfit for the ladies,” he said, adding that couples will visit, and the women will purchase something from Tammy. “We get a lot of cross-promotion with that,” Tackett said. “It’s very nice.” Tammy’s Corner sells clothing, gifts, and items for both ladies and gentlemen. “I’m shocked each month when I see her numbers. People head in and then come out with a bag full of goodies.” Because Greg’s has diversified in so many ways, the business was deemed


SMALL TOWN CHARM

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Davis Distribution Keeps Things Moving During Pandemic “We are direct with most of our vendors, but with the pandemic and a shortage of products, Davis Distribution has been able to help keep our shelves stocked,” Tackett said, adding that Davis has set up trainings, visited the store and worked to protect the lines Tackett’s shop carries. Additionally, when there are product shortages, Davis will help find alternatives. “We have a good relationship with all our sales reps and have been fortunate to work with a lot of good people,” Tackett said. Sony is the business’s most popular brand from Davis Distribution. “Our customers love the look, simple operation and sound of Sony’s XAV models with Car Play. Powerbass Bluetooth sound bars are also popular with the Power sport customer. They are easy to operate, waterproof and tough.” Due to the local market’s increased focus on powersports, Tackett said they are looking forward to seeing how the XL1250 Powerbass soundbar is received by customers, as the product’s previous iteration sold very well. Aside from Davis Distribution, Tackett said that over the years, the shop has had a lot of support. Back in 2007 when the shop first opened, he added, “Keith Selby from Cardinal Sales went above and beyond helping us with shelving and displays. I’ve been doing this since I was 16 or 17 years old. Through the years, there’ve been a lot of people who’ve helped us—including Progressive Group, Rockford, and Kevin Houston with Kicker.”

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The first step of the sales process is to make the customer feel welcome, and to just listen. Then, sales people bring their knowledge and training to the table to offer services and products tailored to the customer’s needs.

essential and has stayed open throughout the spread of COVID-19. Greg’s also carries a name that isn’t seen often these days: Radio Shack. About four years ago, when Radio Shack went out, Tackett said they picked it up as an independent dealer. “That also helped us become an essential business because of what they do,” he said. “It’s brought quite a few people in. I had no idea the name was as big as it is, but every week, people walk in and say, ‘Is this the Radio Shack?’” The shop sells all of Radio Shack’s do-it-yourself accessories, such as cables and connections. “They also have programs with several distributors that have opened up some new opportunities, categories with better discounts than we were getting before.” Even today, he said, Radio Shack has a huge following, “and it’s increased our walk-in traffic significantly.” Diversification, Tackett said, is one of the business’s biggest recent accomplishments—especially since powersports with side-by-side stereos and accessories, and motorcycle and marine audio, has become such a major component, providing about 30 percent of overall revenue.

Tackett said this category is only continuing to grow. “Our staff has studied, read and researched the different accessories available,” he added, noting that they continue to make themselves as familiar as possible with vendors, brands and installation possibilities, especially with the increasing popularity of side-by-sides. Nurturing a Comfortable Sales Environment Tackett said he and his staff have noticed some customers’ defensiveness when they first enter the store, indicative of previous bad experiences with other companies which have likely prompted them to prepare for the worst. Greg’s meets this by working to make a personal connection with the customer. “We start with a soft approach, listening first, and then recommending products based on how they’ll benefit the individual,” Tackett explained. The staff is cross-trained, but each person has specialties or strengths. If one salesperson is more familiar with an item or a vehicle, he said, that person will work with the customer. Each salesperson


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Facebook Groups Help Raise Local Awareness

With longevity and name recognition in the local community, Greg’s Custom Audio provides a tailored experience and focuses on shifting negative expectations by making personal connections.

is also trained to pay attention to the customer’s body language and address any objections with other benefits, or different payment methods if cost is a concern. “Never pressure the customer,” Tackett added. “Our business statement is, ‘Better service, bigger smiles.’ We want to give the customer what they want, take care of them, and see them leave with a smile on their face and come back the same way.” Transforming Challenges into Opportunities When COVID-19 began its spread, Tackett said he and his team faced all the same questions as the rest of the industry: Would they have to shut the doors? If they stayed open, would anyone come in? Despite these worries, Tackett said business remained strong. New employees, new vendors and new products have been added, and Greg’s Custom Audio continues to plan for a bright future. Tackett said the first thing they did was unite as a team. “We let everyone know we’re in this together,” he explained. “If they ever felt unsafe, they were encouraged not to come in. Every staff member stayed on and contributed to the success of the business.” Meanwhile, he added, businesses

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around them closed, laying off or furloughing employees. “Our staff sacrificed like never before, and they did what they needed to do to ensure we all had a place to come to. I once had a boss who told me, ‘Never become friends with your employees.’ The men and women I work with are not only my friends, but also a part of my family.” Tackett stressed that this outlook is what has carried the business through the year, ensuring it thrived amid challenges. The uncertainty regarding COVID-19 was the biggest challenge of the year, he added. “We stayed open, and customers kept coming in,” he said. “They were asking for stereos, speakers, truck accessories and sound bars for side-bysides. People were spending, pandemic or no pandemic.” Tackett said he used this as an opportunity to focus on meeting the needs of his customers. “While others were cutting back, we were getting products in and moving them out the door.” While business is good right now, Tackett said the local economy is always a concern because the shop is in the middle of coal country. Several years ago, he explained, the area was growing. Now, with the loss of jobs in the coal industry,

Rather than boosting posts online, Tackett said that he’s had more luck with posting about current jobs and projects on Facebook powersports groups and buy and sell groups. The focus is simply to get the business’s name out there, he said, adding that they researched groups to find out which ones were best for their purposes. “We found some groups frowned upon traditional advertising, so we had to work our message into the post so as not to come across the wrong way,” Tackett explained. “Also, Facebook only allow so many posts to different groups at one time. We had identify around one hundred groups in our area that we could use to get our message out. We ended up having to post to the different groups over a seven- to ten-day period so that we would not have our account suspended. Around twenty-five at a time.” Since the posts were going onto groups rather than a dedicated page for the business, Tackett said the posts remain focused on simply letting people know the shop is out there. “We’ll share a photo of something we’ve done, for example, so it’s not advertising,” he explained, adding that he hopes to also reach beyond the shop’s local area, which is relatively rural. The efforts did increase traffic to the business’s Facebook page, garnering more likes and bringing new customers into the store, Tackett noted.


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Home theater is one of the many categories offered, though it makes up a small percentage of overall revenue.

Pandemic Provides Unique Training Opportunities Because the shop is so busy, Tackett views the recent increase in online training as a great opportunity. He stated the trainings have been very valuable due to flexibility: Participants can watch live, or afterhours as a group.

things have become uncertain. “We have a hospital that’s growing and a university that’s bringing people in,” Tackett said, adding, “Our economy is stable right now, but it’s still in the backs of our minds what might happen if we lose more industry.” Expanding a Business? Know Your Dreams In 2021, the business’s goal is to remodel the installation bays. Tackett said he wants to clean them up, organize them and make the workspace more efficient. Additionally, the business continues to examine niches that might spark further growth. “Is there something we can do better? Are there things we can change or do differently with the lines and categories we have now?” he said. “The economy could cause some problems— but we want to make sure that it’s not us causing the problem.” The remodel of the showroom is about 80 percent complete as of this writing. The Tacketts aren’t planning to open a second location, but they do want to expand categories and experiment with the local market. “There are lots of opportunities here.” Even though there are no lakes within 25 to 30 miles, marine sales have recently tripled. Business is booming on all counts, and much of this has to

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do with the powersports category. When it comes to diversifying and expanding a business, Tackett advised retailers ensure that each decision is backed by the knowledge that it will help the business and be beneficial in the future. If not, it isn’t worth it. “We looked for a new location for five years and got serious the last year,” he said. “You have to know what your dreams are and stick to your ideas of what you want to do, and go for that until you get it.” Tackett admitted that he’s too cautious sometimes. When the powersports category began to grow, he pushed himself to look deeper into it and take a chance. “The pandemic started, and weren’t sure about it. But we started picking up [new products]. They started selling well. People come in asking for them.” Now, he said, powersports and accessories are bringing in around 35 percent of the business’s revenue. “As I look toward the future, I know it’s good to be cautious—but not so cautious that it’ll hold us back from expanding or doing other things. You have to try something before you know whether it’ll work.” And it’s important to remember, he added, not everything will be successful. “Things work out, but sometimes it takes longer than we want it to.”

Normally, Greg’s hosts in-house trainings or travels. Traveling can be inconvenient, he added, because the training site is often far away. “We have found online training to be more convenient,” he said, noting that the staff has been able to get essential information about the why behind customers’ buying habits, the how regarding benefits for both the business and the customer, and the “sizzle”—or, why the customer needs the product. Prior to the pandemic, the shop had plans to send one of the staff members to KnowledgeFest Indy, but now, Tackett said, “We will wait and see what things look like in 2021.”


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ďƒŽ Learning From Leaders

First Forward

Mike Anderson discusses his career accomplishments, and how Alpine Electronics of America continues to innovate during uncertain times. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER

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First Forward

The iLX-F411 is the world’s first 11-inch floating display head unit, which upholds Alpine’s focus on “First One” products, keeping the company at the forefront of 12-volt evolution.

Back in the 70s and 80s, if you wanted an album, portable radio or a car stereo, you shopped at a big name in the business. Sam Goody was one of them, and that’s exactly where Mike Anderson, vice president and GM of Alpine Electronics of America, began his career. “I started with them in Valley Stream in the Green Acres Mall,” he said, noting that the final iteration of Sam Goody and the Sam Goody he worked for were two completely different operations. “When I worked there, it was a place where you could buy any album or cassette tape under the sun.” He recalled the business had the best selection, as well as a hi-fi department, audio gear and a radio department that included compact stereo systems and accessories, and car stereos. Alpine was previously headquartered in Torrance, Calif. but now calls Auburn Hills, Mich. home. Anderson himself grew up on Long Island in Farmingdale, he

said, but he currently resides in California. Keeping to his roots, he noted that he’s a Giants fan and a Rangers fan. “I started getting into hockey before the Islanders existed, so the Rangers were my team.” Anderson also keeps a Giants helmet in his office—a fond reminder of his east coast roots. The Analog Version of the Showroom After gaining experience in Sam Goody’s radio department, Anderson was soon selling mid- to high-end audio gear at higher prices than most other stores. “I sympathize with dealers today who are concerned with Internet pricing,” he said. “We had a version of that when I was growing up.” The biggest difficulty, he said, was Uncle Steve’s in downtown Manhattan and “people on Canal Street who sold things at ridiculously low prices.” When the Sunday paper came out, stores advertised these low prices,

and customers would bring the ad into Sam Goody’s, wanting them to meet the price. “We were pretty well-trained salespeople, and we talked customers out of the lower prices while offering a better service experience,” Anderson explained. “It was the analog version of showrooming—I lived that.” Even now, Anderson credits Goody’s for giving him a solid foundation in sales, adding that the company had an outstanding training program. “There are still are a lot of Sam Goody alumni out there,” he said, “and many of them are now on the rep and manufacturing sides of the business.” Anderson stayed in retail working summers while in college, then took a full-time job with Sam Goody, but burnout with retail hours had him set a new course elsewhere. When a position opened with the local Pioneer rep company, he took it.

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 Learning From Leaders

Alpine’s PSS-SX01, a side-by-side audio system.

“When I joined Pioneer, there were two completely separate divisions,” he noted. “There was home audio, U.S. Pioneer, and car audio which was Pioneer of America. I got hired by the company-owned rep for U.S. Pioneer, the home audio side.” In 1982, he said, the companies merged and his firm was selected to represent both home and car audio. As the youngest person in the company, Anderson was given car audio and became the product specialist. This grew into a sales role, then a senior sales role, and then a regional manager role, he said. This led to Anderson joining Alpine in 1990. “I just celebrated 30 years.” “First One” at the Forefront of Industry Evolution Looking back, Alpine was at the forefront of many car audio industry firsts—navigation being one of them. “The whole idea of buying a separate unit that

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required a separate screen was so foreign to most people, but once they put a navigation system in their car, they couldn’t live without it,” Anderson recalled. Once navigation became standard in new cars, it really took off, he added, and portable navigation became a huge business for a long time. “We were selling navigation systems for $1,500, but you could buy a portable piece for $300—and the software could be updated more often,” he said. “Of course, navigation has ended up on our phones today.” Navigation is just one example of Alpine’s pace-setter status when it comes to new technologies. “It’s now part of an internal initiative known as First One products,” Anderson explained. “We were the first company to introduce in-vehicle navigation, and we were the first company to integrate the iPod into a car audio system. We were one of the first

companies to introduce satellite radio in the car, as well.” He noted that there are many “First One” milestones that Alpine has enjoyed over the years, and the company takes great pride in it. “More recently, we were the first company to introduce a floating screen in the dashboard.” The smartphone, of course, was destined to become a key piece of equipment in the car—an evolution that started with devices which allowed folks to have as many tunes as possible for a ride. “People began to gravitate to a portable MP3 player to bring their music into the car,” Anderson said. “When you had CDs, you needed a valise full of them and then you could have thousands of songs on one device—iPod or Zune or whatever it was— but once that transitioned and you could put it all on your phone, it was all over.” The convenience, though, comes at a slight cost that isn’t lost on Anderson.


First Forward

Kids get all of their information from their phones on social media, so you’ve got to be active to get your message out. This means one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the value of word-of-mouth marketing.

As a result of compressing those files, he explained, there was a lesser appreciation of good sound quality. Now, however, it seems as if that’s turning around. “With hi-res audio and better headphones, it’s created a greater appreciation for quality audio,” he said. “With Tidal, a high-res audio streaming service, people who appreciate good audio are gravitating toward that.” Word of Mouth Always Works Today’s younger generations have not only grown up with a smartphone in hand, but with a different mindset on vehicles. These are folks who take Ubers and Lyfts—and may not be as interested in owning their own car. Anderson admitted this is an issue we will face long-term. “The younger generation’s desire to own a car is nowhere near as strong as it was 10 years ago. Your first car was your first expression of who you were as a young adult,” he said. “You wanted to redo it, put audio in it, add motoring accessories. It was this personal statement.” Anderson recalled his first car, a 1967 Chevy Malibu that he purchased for $500 from a neighbor. “Within days, I had an under-the-dash 8-track player and 6 by 9 speakers in the rear deck.” Reaching out to today’s younger consumers is a challenge that retailers have to address on many levels, according to Anderson. “That’s where social media becomes so important today,” he said. “Kids get all of their information from

their phones on social media, so you’ve got to be active to get your message out.” This means one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the value of word-of-mouth marketing. “That’s how you build an audience and a loyal following—but then you’ve got to keep communicating to those people.” New Products and High Hopes for the Future With the pandemic overshadowing most of 2020, Alpine is positioned for a strong 2021. Anderson said he is cautiously optimistic for the year ahead. The company has seen a resurgence in business, and Anderson added it’s not just Alpine—it’s across the entire industry. “People who aren’t working are getting stimulus money, and they’ve got time on their hands. More importantly, the people who are working and continue to work are now buying things instead of going to concerts, ballgames, movies or restaurants,” he added. Customers are improving their homes and vehicles, as well as boats and side-by-sides. “As a result, our business has exploded. It’s been on a good trajectory since mid-May. Right now through the end of the year, we’re looking very strong. We’re chasing inventory. The entire industry is still chasing inventory.” Set for introduction this quarter are successors to Alpine’s floating screens. A new nine-inch floating screen is coming out this month, as well as the industry’s

first 11-inch screen. “There could be needs down the road for even larger screens in pick-up trucks, SUVs and RVs, all of which we are targeting with the 11-inch model,” he said. “But nothing larger than the 11-inch is in the works right now. We’ll be introducing new products for next year, so we’ve got a good outlook about our business.” Anderson said Alpine is cautiously optimistic since the future is unclear, and no one is sure what will happen with the economy or the stimulus money. One thing Anderson does know is that for the first time in a very long time, Alpine won’t be in Las Vegas for CES. “That’s probably the single biggest marketing event we have in any year,” he said. “CES is still a really important show, not only for our brand but for our OEM customers, but SEMA has also become very important.” However, he noted, Alpine doesn’t exhibit there. “We choose to limit our big investment to CES, and we’ll probably be back in 2022.” Still, he said, there’s no show this year—“I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself the first week of January.”

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ďƒŽ strategy & tactics Since KarTele Mobile Electronics underwent a complete renovation, owner Mike Hungerford said numbers are up. The new atmosphere of the business adds value to the sale.

Considering a showroom makeover, but not sure where to start?

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Shining Showrooms

Retailers discuss five main strategies for designing a showroom which is sure to welcome clients and help them find what they’re seeking.

A.C.T. Audio’s work-in-progress: After expanding the garage to add a bay, the staff still has to rip up the subflooring and paint it.

WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

In 2018, Car-Tunes Inc. in Greenville, Miss. went through a major remodel, but owner Kimberly Trainer said whenever her team makes changes, it isn’t long before they find something else to update. “It’s never-ending,” she added, noting the Top 12 submission videos also force them to look at things in a new light. The Industry Awards process, she said, “makes you look at things in a different way. When you look at something from six months or a year ago, or more, you might say, ‘That was before we did this, or that….’ It’s eye-opening.” An improved atmosphere, all on its own, “adds value to the sale,” according to Mike Hungerford of KarTele Mobile Electronics in Waterbury, Conn., who recommended that stores begin by planning their remodel on paper. KarTele recently underwent a complete front to back renovation, even rebranding the company logo. “You have to have the image of what you want,” he said. “It’s like laying out an audio job in a trunk. You have be able to see it in your head.” One main focus of KarTele’s renovation was to ensure

everything was branded with the store’s logo. “The displays and counter are branded with KarTele. You see our name on everything,” he added. #1: Define the Clientele

When it comes to remodels, James P. Smith of A.C.T. Audio in Vernon, Conn. said it’s important to define the business’s clientele. “We are aiming for the higher-end,” he said, so it’s important that the showroom reflects that. “A professional-looking, clean showroom that’s more like a car dealership will make a difference.” Smith’s goal is to keep it simple. “We won’t put product all over the place. We don’t want to be a grab-and-go store,” he said, adding that the main focus is to become a shop that caters to a specific type of client and offers a memorable experience. The business is currently focusing on an install bay remodel—after which, they will switch gears to the showroom. He noted there’s a lot to do around the shop. Smith took full ownership of A.C.T. Audio a little over a year ago, he said. The business now has five employees. Since then, “I added window tinting,

detailing and jumped into fleet work. I’ve been diversifying. My goal is to become a one-stop-shop.” Business has been good, Smith said, adding that while they’ve had product shortages like everyone else, they’ve still experienced record-breaking months. The diversification itself has required major renovations. “Our store was kind of awkward, but we had a big middle room for storage, and we worked on motorcycles in there because we could fit them through the door. We blew down the wall so we can drive a car straight through, and we built a woodshop that we’re still working on. Time and money have put a small hold on it, but it’s usable. We still have to rip up the subflooring and paint it to match the rest of the garage, but we can drive a car in and work on it. It’s functional, but it doesn’t have the cosmetic aspects yet.” Additionally, Smith explained that the building has a high ceiling of about 25 feet, but the wall in his office only went up 10 feet and stopped. “We added a complete ceiling, and we raised the wall in the showroom up to the ceiling and put our logo on it. I still have to finish some

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 strategy & tactics of the logos. I have my Top Retailer stickers going up, but they just put the logo up yesterday,” he added. The showroom displays are all from Avid Worx, and a motorcycle display was recently added, but it isn’t complete yet. The business is flux as the staff continues to work on the garage area, while looking toward improvement projects in the showroom. Smith said he wants to remove the closed-in sales booth—a holdover from the tow truck company that used to occupy the building—and create a much simpler, open sales counter. Currently, the team utilizes a round table when consulting with customers. #2: Define Your Goals

Defining a business’s goals goes handin-hand with defining the clientele the business wants to attract. Smith said he wished he’d had a better defined “end goal” to start with. “You have to really map out what you want, even if you have to do it in stages to get there,” he

explained. “I didn’t map out what I really wanted, and I definitely wasted more time and money backtracking sometimes.” He stressed that it’s important to keep future expansion in mind. “We worried about filling the space, but in reality, we should have left some space so we had room to add to it,” he said. “You want to be able to showcase everything you sell in the showroom, so you need to make a spot for it no matter how small it is.” Without showcasing it, he noted, you have to rely on yourself or your salespeople to tell customers about it. “The more you have showcased, the more people will ask you about those products. You become more than just an audio or a remote starter store—you become an aftermarket accessory store.” Smith said if he could go back and change how he approached his initial showroom remodel, he would have downsized his focus on audio to make sure he had room for the categories and services he would add in the future. “When we

eliminate the sales booth, we’ll open up space in the store,” he added. “Make sure you have a defined end-vision of what you want your garage or your sales floor to look like, rather than what you need from it right now.” #3: Understand the Client’s Perspective

It’s important to try to see things from the perspective of the client, according to Hungerford. “Any time I make a change, I stand at the front of the showroom and look in to see it from the customer’s perspective,” he explained. “If you stand behind the counter, it looks different.” Recently, he said, his staff set up a coffee bar for customers, calling it the KarTele Café. Hungerford will sit down for a different view and make sure the fridge isn’t crooked, the displays are clean and everything is stocked properly. “If there’s something I missed, I’ll see it there. You have to look at it from the customer’s perspective, more than your own.”

Car-Tunes, Inc. focuses on creating a fully customizable experience for clients. The open, interactive layout of the showroom invites visitors to explore and ask questions.

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Shining Showrooms

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 strategy & tactics

The newly added “KarTele Café” at KarTele Mobile Electronics offers coffee and water to customers. Each year, Hungerford and his staff decorate the store for the holidays.

A.C.T. Audio’s facility is currently being remodeled. Owner James P. Smith began with the garage, and has now started making changes in the showroom. The most recent upgrade involved putting the store logo on the wall, along with the Industry Awards logos.

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Trainer said when the store underwent their 2018 remodel, part of the plan involved actually removing about 300 square feet of space from the showroom. “You’d think you’d want more space,” she said. “Why would you make it smaller? But when people come, they think it’s bigger.” What they really did, she said, was declutter the space. “We simplified things. We used to have doors that blocked things off behind our counters. Now, everything is wide open.” The new showroom layout took Trainer almost a year to plan, she said, including everything from floor plans to concepts to execution and building the displays. “It involved time, phone calls, meetings and even traveling and getting out the measuring tape.” She added that the initial concept won’t always fit the actual measurement. “Another thing I wanted to do was allocate a separate area for when we’re building a system with a customer, away from where people are trying to pay for what they’re buying,” Trainer added. “If someone is paying for something, and we’re talking to another person about something else, they get distracted and now they’re thinking, ‘Maybe I need what he’s getting,’ and then you have to start the sales process all over.” The new layout is conducive to a smoother sales process, with less distractions. When planning a remodel, Trainer said it’s important to remember that the process will likely take twice as long as anticipated. “Make sure you allocate the time and consider your customer’s perspective. One of the toughest things we had to do was stay open while we were remodeling and still feel like we weren’t sacrificing our customers’ experience.” During the remodel, she said she planned out week by week which area would be worked on, ensuring everything was safe for visitors. “If we had to, we could present the products in another area—even if it was smaller than normal, it would still be appropriate,” she explained. “That’s hard to do, but it’s important.” #4: Build an Interactive Experience

All of KarTele Mobile Electronics’ displays are fully interactive. Hungerford said visitors like to press buttons on the


Shining Showrooms lighting display, which prompts them to ask questions. When they discover the shop offers headlight upgrades, he said the next thing he knows, the shop is selling a set of HID upgrades when the client initially came in for a remote starter. “It’s nice to be able to show people all the products and services we do without having to run around the store,” he added. Hungerford said his store’s revenue is up since the remodel. “We incorporated a sound deadening demo into the audio board, which we got from 5 Axis Innovations. Now we can demonstrate the difference between mounting a speaker in a door panel versus doing it properly with the right mounts, sound deadening and proper speaker rings,” he explained. “Our prices may be higher, but the atmosphere our clients experience when they are here is what sells the services.” Trainer said Car-Tunes, Inc. has made sure everything is fully customizable. She noted that any changes are planned strategically to ensure customers are exposed to options they might not have been aware of previously. Some prebuilt displays, she said, only allowed users to test one item. “We added things so that anything a customer pointed to, we could make that item play using whatever speaker or amp they wanted,” she explained. “We want to make sure that every product a customer sees, they can also experience, hear it and touch it.” Ensuring proper organization in the showroom is important, too. After incorporating motorcycle audio and accessories into the showroom, Trainer noted, “I found out fast that motorcycle owners want everything a particular way,” which meant that the motorcycle category had to be defined and separate from marine and ATV. All the product add-ons, she said, appeal to everyone—no matter what they came in for—so it’s important to have displays for remote start and security and radar detectors. While a client may not be thinking of these categories when they first come in, “When they see the screen and the statistics on how much it costs if you get a ticket, it helps sell the product.”

#5: Encourage Positive First Impressions

In the open floorplan of the Car-Tunes, Inc. showroom, people often walk behind the sales counter. The new design minimized boundaries, making the space feel larger. At first, Trainer said this made her staff uncomfortable because customers were so near to the cash register. However, she added, “I turned everything digital. The registers are on an iPad anyway. When customers walk behind the counter, they seem to feel like they’re part of the team.” During a MESA Summit, Trainer said a concept was presented which she realized her store was already implementing. “We thought the iPad would help declutter and take less time, but it had another impact.” She explained that some people have a different way of interacting socially, and the iPad or screens on the walls “gives their eyes somewhere to go.” If they don’t like making eye contact, such tools can make them more comfortable, “and they make better decisions and buy more because they feel more at ease.”

Trainer said the most difficult part of the store’s big remodel was encouraging a positive first impression despite the work in-progress. When it comes to a specialty retailer like Car-Tunes, Inc., Trainer noted that customers hold them to a higher standard. “You want to make sure you can still accommodate the customers coming in. Even though we were trying to improve, some customers might be there for the first time, and this is their first impression of us.” For shops that want to begin a remodel or a refresh of their facility, Trainer recommended decluttering first. Although Car-Tunes keeps a lot of inventory in-stock, the focus is always to be clean and organized. “If you only have a small area of space to work with, don’t overwhelm your customer. Your sales process will take twice as long if they’re getting distracted.” Stay focused, she added, “and target that one, main thing you want to sell first. Then, build from there.”

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Vehicle Specific Bluetooth Music & Phone Interfaces ®

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 tech today

Vehicle Safety and Parking Sensor Systems

The display that comes with the Brandmotion 90023003 universal four-sensor parking system can be mounted on the dash, upside-down on the headliner or in the rear of the vehicle, so it’s visible in the rearview mirror.

In order to successfully sell parking sensors, retailers must understand placement on the vehicle, options, installation techniques and how to explain these products to clients. WORDS BY DAVE MACKINNON As we continue to look at different collision avoidance systems, our path brings us to parking sensor systems. First introduced to the automotive industry in 1982 on the Toyota Corona, these compact and inconspicuous devices provide drivers with clear warnings that an object or person is in the path of their vehicle. In terms of preventing back-over accidents while parking or maneuvering, parking sensors are considered one of the best solutions available.

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How do Parking Sensors Work? A parking sensor uses low-power electromagnetic transmitters and receivers to detect objects. In most applications, an array of four sensors are integrated into the vehicle’s bumper to provide full coverage of one end of the car or truck. The sensors include an antenna that looks for reflections of the pulsed signal it transmitted. When an object is detected, the system can provide an alert to the vehicle operator. Because parking sensors work

similarly to radar, the system can also let the driver know the distance to its detected object. Sensor placement is crucial to the reliable operation of the system. The distance between the sensors and their mounting angle plays a significant role in determining how well they cover the vehicle’s front or back. As with any aftermarket collision avoidance system, proper installation is crucial to the overall functionality.


Vehicle Safety and Parking Sensor Systems

The iBEAM TE-4PSK is a four-sensor parking alert system that provides warnings as far as five feet away from an object. Extension cables and additional sensors are available for custom installations and front-bumper applications.

The Curb Alert PRO provides an audible warning that lets drivers know when the front of the vehicle is getting close to a curb. This simple and effective solution can prevent thousands of dollars in damage.

Active Safety Systems Prevent Accidents Unlike a backup camera that requires the driver to remember to look at the screen, parking sensor systems are a fully active safety solution. When an object is detected in the sensor’s path, an audible alert is produced to warn of an impending impact. Even if the driver isn’t paying attention to what they are doing, the warning will let them know they need to react. Most systems include a display that lets the driver know how close they are to an object. The systems will display the distance to the item on a small LCD seven-segment display. Warning bars will also provide an intuitive guide to let the driver know how close they are. While perfect for avoiding bicycles and toys, these systems are great for applications where the vehicle is backing into a parking space in a garage. Those that don’t include displays provide a series of beeps that increase in frequency as the vehicle approaches an object. Most switch to a steady warning tone when the obstacle is about 12 inches away. Options for Different Clients Traditionally, parking sensor systems have been associated with installations on the rear of the vehicle. While these represent the majority of installations, there are many systems available that include additional sensors that can protect the front of the vehicle from damage. Knowing when the vehicle is inches from a wall or fence helps clients pull their car or truck far enough into a parking spot to ensure the other end isn’t sticking out into the roadway. The Curb Alert PRO from Brandmotion is a very popular upgrade for people with lowered and exotic vehicles. This system uses an infrared-based distance sensing system that designed specifically to alert the vehicle operator when he or she is approaching a curb or parking stop. In many cases, the front of these vehicles would contact the curb before the front tires of a vehicle, resulting in significant damage. Once installed, your team can calibrate the system to provide an audible warning at a distance between eight and 28 inches from an object. This product is a great solution to market to local enthusiast groups, car clubs and high-end vehicle dealerships. Explaining Parking Sensor System Operation to a Client The best way to demonstrate how a parking sensor system works is to have one installed in a shop vehicle. You can invite the client to sit in the car or truck with you, the reverse toward a wall or another vehicle to show them how the warnings work. It’s important to highlight that the system doesn’t require any intervention from the driver to make it work. There are no buttons to push or switches to enable. Everything is automatic. If you don’t have a vehicle that’s always available, the next best option is to have a system on display in the store. You can use two or four sensors installed on a wall-mounted display. When you enable the system, you can walk toward the sensors to demonstrate how they work. If you happen to sell truck accessories, integrating the sensors into a tonneau cover or upgraded rear bumper display is a great idea. Add some small cards with arrows pointing to the sensors to get clients asking about them.

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 tech today

Under no circumstances should the front or rear bumper support be modified to make way for parking sensors. Altering this component may negatively affect the safety of the vehicle.

Things to Know Before You Begin Work Each manufacturer has specific guidelines about where and how to install its parking sensors. In most cases, the sensors need to be spaced evenly across the bumper. They also need to be mounted so that the sensor’s face is vertical or pointed upward at a few degrees. If they are pointed down, the system may produce false alarms. The sensors need to be a specific distance above the ground, often 18 to 30 inches, depending on the brand. Before one of your technicians starts drilling into a metal bumper, make sure the system you are installing has plastic or rubber grommets that are compatible with this type of application. Not all include these pieces. For those installing in a plastic front or rear bumper cover, make sure that any metal safety structure behind the plastic won’t prevent the sensors from being installed. Likewise, don’t drill into a front or rear impact bar to provide clearance. Even minor alterations can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of these items in an accident. Customizing Solutions for Clients If your client wants this feature, most parking sensors can be painted to match the paint on a bumper. As these are high-frequency devices, there are limitations to the thickness of the paint and the finish. The paint on all the sensors should be the same thickness, so painting them all at once is recommended.

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Most sensors allow for coatings up to 125 micrometers, including base and clear coats. The painter should be advised that they’ll be painting plastic and aluminum surfaces, as this may alter the primer they use. Finally, there are often specific guidelines about avoiding getting paint into certain parts of the sensor. These areas are often referred to as an air-gap. Check the specific instructions for the sensors you are installing before you begin the painting process. Wiring Routing and Protection As a professional mobile enhancement retailer, you should already have extensive knowledge of how to run wiring safely and securely. As the wiring for these sensors is relatively small, you’ll want to be gentle with it and not damage the connectors or pull the wires out of the sensors. Your technicians will want to run the wires away from electrical interference sources like computer modules or high-current loads. If connections need to be made outside the vehicle, make sure everything is weathertight. Adhesive-lined heat-shrink tubing is a great way to seal connections to keep water and debris away from the terminals. You can also apply a small amount of dielectric grease to weather-resistant terminals for an added layer of protection. Dielectric grease, sometimes called anti-corrosion gel, is available from Install Bay and auto parts stores. Design

Engineering Inc. and Wurth offer self-vulcanizing rubber tape that bonds to itself. When wrapped tightly around connectors, it will help to prevent water from infiltrating the connection. This tape is also an excellent solution for backup camera installations in pickup trucks where connections need to be made under the bed. If you have a parking sensor solution that works with metal bumpers, consider treating the drilled hole edges with a corrosion-resistant coating. Cold-galvanizing paints and compounds are a great solution to prevent salts and chemicals from damaging chrome finishes around the sensor openings. These coatings can be sprayed on or applied with a brush, and most are dry in 20 to 30 minutes. Your technicians can continue working on the interior of the vehicle while the paint is drying. Help Keep Our Streets Safe With Vehicle Safety Solutions Once your team is adept at installing parking sensors, you’ll find that they’re a profitable solution. If you’d like to bring more customers interested in this sort of solution to your facility, be sure to apply to the Vision Zero website to have your store listed as a Preferred Retailer. Visit www.vzan.org for more information. Dave MacKinnon has worked in the mobile electronics industry since 1988 in almost every capacity, including roles as a Retail Salesperson, Installer, Sales Representative, Technical Trainer and Product Development Manager for some of the largest car audio companies in the world. Dave started his writing career in 2000 as the Technical Editor of a Toronto-based car audio magazine and has reviewed more than 450 products. Formally trained as an Electronics Technician, Dave is considered an industry expert when it comes to explaining how mobile audio components work, and he has crafted thousands of articles to share that knowledge. He’s currently the Head Writer for 1sixty8 media and the Editorin-Chief at BestCarAudio.com.


It's all about saving lives

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 installs

This 2020 Acura TLX came in for a radar detector—but left with an audio upgrade and a new set of wheels.

SUBMITTED BY CHRISTOPHER LABONTE, VIBE CAR AUDIO, RED DEER, ALBERTA, CANADA

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 installs A client came to Vibe Car Audio looking for a radar detector, according to Christopher Labonte. The radar detector led to a new wheel package, and soon, the client wanted to discuss an audio upgrade as well. The 2020 Acura TLX A-spec received a JL Audio upgrade consisting of two TW-3 10’s and C-7 two-way components. “I mimicked the hexagonal pattern from the bumpers into the fiberglass subwoofer enclosures, then wrapped black carpet to match the trunk’s carpet,” Labonte said, adding that red and black vinyl made the interior colors flow throughout the vehicle. “The enclosures are mounted using a nutsert and bolt that replaced a factory push clip hole. The JL VXi-1000/5 sits on a five-layer amp rack lit red to match the interior colors.” Additionally, Labonte said the hexagon pattern was hand-routered. “We’ve also added Radenso Pro M radar, and the custom powder-coated ‘Blood Red’ metallic Niche wheels.” The powder coating was completed locally. “I did all work using hand routers and table routers—no CNC,” he added, noting that the vehicle owner has permitted Vibe Car Audio to display it in the shop’s showroom over the winter.

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From The President

We should all be proud of what we have collectively accomplished. I look forward to 2021 as a breakout year with only the best yet to come.

ALL THINGS NEW

When the usual approach no longer applies, perhaps it’s time to try something new. As a small business, the Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) derives revenue from membership, media and trade events. The latter has recently been a challenge for all industries. The new word of the day is “pivot”—using your expertise to move in a new direction to provide value to your customers. We needed to make a change that would allow us to continue to provide benefits in a new way to those who rely upon us for great education, in-person networking and the all-important manufacturer exhibits. The exhibits were one of the most significant challenges when it came to building an online trade event platform, since attendees visit these booths to speak with existing and potential suppliers, review their offerings, and ultimately place orders. As a business, we (MEA) had to create a compelling experience that provides all the elements of an in-person event, but in a virtual setting. When faced with the challenge of shifting one or more revenue streams, a business owner must inventory skillsets and decide how best to proceed. While speaking with many of you during the beginning of the pandemic, I witnessed great trepidation regarding the ability to survive this challenge. Many roadblocks were out of your control. This required a pivot in terms of how you approached marketing and what you presented as value for your existing and potential customers. Let’s look at some good examples of “pivots” that took place early on, and the results. Initially, many stores were told they had to close, as they were not listed as essential. At MEA, we worked with many of you to help you reopen and provide support. One of the first pivots involved offering support to emergency

60  Mobile Electronics December 2020

providers in the form of maintaining their infrastructure—adding or maintaining emergency lighting, radios and other electronics was a desperately needed service for those on the front lines. In addition, many specialty retailers advertised their ability to read and diagnose those pesky “check engine” lights for consumers left without the usual options from automotive repair shops that may have closed. Other simple repairs such as changing bulbs, wipers, and electronics had a positive effect on both customers and the business. Another impressive pivot involved retailers designing and producing personal protection equipment (PPE) in the form of face shields and protective intubation boxes. This pivot left me feeling proud to be in this industry, and proud of those who provided for others when in many cases they had little to no idea how they or their business would manage. This was a selfless act of kindness to help others in need, and the results where astounding. Many of these stories made it into local and national media, and went a long way to reveal our industry to those who may not have been aware it existed. These examples, including how we made the pivot at MEA, are all models of both innovative and necessary solutions to maintain and diversify business. I am so impressed by you! Yes, you—the leaders and innovators who stepped up, rather than stepped aside, to deliver what people needed and when they needed it most. I have learned so much from your examples. Our industry, as a whole, is an impressive one. We should all be proud of what we have collectively accomplished. I look forward to 2021 as a breakout year with only the best yet to come.


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Profile for Mobile Electronics

Mobile Electronics Magazine - December 2020