The IAS/MERA Connection
By Brett Solomon
From May 21-23 the International Auto Salon (IAS) was held by SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, at the Atlantic City Convention Center. SEMA represents the $29 billion specialty automotive industry, and is composed of over 5,200 member companies. IAS is a unique show because it's designed for both trade and consumers, with specific days for each.
Each day had amazing attendance—particularly the consumer days. Aisles of sport compact performance and vehicle personalization products in manufacturer's booths were juxtaposed against consumer-owned show vehicles. This set up was light years ahead of the ill-fated FUSE show (run by the CEA) held in the Atlantic City Convention Center just a few years ago. The bottom line is that the sport compact vehicle performance/personalization industry is extremely hot and your business should be capitalizing on the great products the aftermarket has to offer. After all, your installation staff is savvy enough to install a car alarm in a vehicle with multiplexed databus technology, so why would an exhaust system really a far stretch?
MERA (Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association) realized the profit potential that mobile electronics dealers could have selling vehicle performance and personalization products, so they formed an alliance with SEMA. On Friday, mobile electronics retailers were welcomed to peruse the aisles of the show without crowds of consumers swamping the booths. On Saturday, the retailers were invited by MERA to escape the crowds of the consumer show and attend a seminar series specifically prepared for mobile electronics dealers who also are selling vehicle performance/personalization products. The point of the seminars was simple—help mobile electronics retailers make more money.
UNDERSTANDING THE SIGNS
The first seminar was titled "Inventory: Are you Running it or is It Running You?" run by Harvey Wright, President of AutoSound (and also the Vice President of MERA)—a single store located in Lexington, Ky. Obviously, the hurdles associated with mobile electronics inventory can be the most complex of any of the custom installation industries. Indeed, mobile electronics retailers have the benefit of the customer delivering the vehicle to the shop so the installers are all in one location rather than "on the road." But with each different vehicle needing a potentially different "dash kit" or "OEM integration device," stocking a store properly so random vehicle installations can be performed the same day is a challenge. Wright started off with the suggestion that if the sale isn't made immediately, then every customer should be given a small brochure that describes the capabilities of your store. "How many mobile installations stores are doing this? Probably only a couple, and this can set your abilities apart from other retailers in your area."