We expected retailers to be crying in their soup about remote start sales since the weather has been so warm this winter in many areas of the country.
Some retailers said sales were down between 10 and 20 percent in remote starters, and some still held out hope that a severe cold snap might save the season.
At least one remote start supplier said sales were actually ahead of last year at this time as retailers bought in heavily earlier in the season. But the sales pace has been slower for January, it admitted.
For any retailer wishing to unload remote start inventory, you may want to consider Groupon, as did The Audio Connection, a 3 store chain in Baltimore, MD, which sold 600 units and is happy with the results.
Owner Dave Bran said Groupon pushes you sell at a very low price, but he was able to add fees for certain installations. He advertised remote starters at $109 installed (at a loss of $21 each) but charged an extra $130 for any car that is key coded or keyless entry (almost all cars).
“Out of 600 calls I had less than a handful who returned the Groupon [because of the fine print],” said Bran. “They were mostly the nicest group of people I’ve ever dealt with. More than 60 percent were women, which is a demographic that’s hard for us to get to,” he noted.
The Audio Connection bays are now booked for the next few months and the store didn’t spend a penny on advertising. “We brought in 600 people who had never come into the stores…it keeps the techs busy at a slow time of year after Christmas,” Bran said. Many or most customers were also sold satellite radio, Bluetooth kits or upgrade speakers.
Bran notes that it took a while to contact and work with Groupon to set up the deal. Also be prepared to get “beat up” on price. But enjoy the new customers.
As for other retailers, here’s how the remote start season is shaping up:
ABT, Glenview, IL said sales are down about 15 to 20 percent.
Sound of Tri-State out of Delaware said sales are soft in the category but the store is up for the month as it is winning plus business since local competitor Sixth Avenue Electronics recently closed up shop.
The Ultimate Edge, Oswego, NY said sales are off but actual profits are up. The store made the decision recently to carry only higher end remote starters and leave the $99 (unprofitable) specials to the competition. It’s now more profitable, selling fewer units.
Autotoys, Randolph, MA said sales are “a little below average.” The random cold weather spells are still bringing in sales that book two weeks out for installation
Car Tunes Stereo Center, Detroit, MI with 6 stores said sales are actually up in its main remote start brands Omega Research and Code Alarm.
Columbus Car Audio, Columbus, OH is seeing more business in the higher end SmartStart modules that remote start the car from the phone. They cost an extra $200 over standard remote start, so dollar sales are up by 12 percent even though unit sales in remote start are down by 17.5 percent.
Directed would not divulge sales of the SmartStart, but said, “SmartStart had another great season. Dealers are getting great customer response from the $100 mail-in rebate promotion,” said Directed President Mike Simmons.