There are few stores that offer both mobile electronics and performance parts and accessories, but by realizing the right clientele and approach, the crossover between the car-audio and performance enthusiasts can provide new opportunities for traditional specialty-equipment shops.

While it has become more common to see “tuner” cars with large audio and video systems, and mobile-electronics enthusiasts’ rides sporting body kits, aftermarket exhausts and cold-air intakes, it is important to realize that there exist two distinct customers. A few SEMA retailers indicate that performance enthusiasts are less likely to spend large amounts on a mobile-electronics system, while mobile-electronics enthusiasts are more likely to purchase performance and appearance upgrades.

“Every now and then someone interested in performance will come in to buy an intake and may buy a sub box,” said Keith Price, owner of Virginia-based Custom Cars Unlimited. “If they’re coming in for performance, they usually don’t want to add a lot of weight. But if someone comes in to get a head unit and they see the performance options we offer, they may buy an air intake and other accessories. A lot of younger performance customers and the sport-compact crowd are also more into car audio, and there’s some crossover.”

John Larson, manager of Minnesota-based Sound Connection Inc., confirms that performance-enthusiasts who come into the store are not looking to add a major audio system. On the other side, sales at the 13-year-old mobile-electronics business, which added performance parts and accessories about four years ago, has been increased by car-audio enthusiasts interested in adding cosmetic enhancements to their vehicles.

“Normally, it’s new taillights and other small-ticket items, but we also do wheels and tires,” Larson said.

Imran Ahmad, marketing manager for Ultimate Audio, a Florida-area chain, stresses that in making the crossover move, it is important to have salespeople and installers who are well-versed and knowledgeable in both car audio and performance products.

“The performance side is what I know,” Ahmad said. “And while I may not know the technical side of car audio, there are guys here where it’s their main bag. So if a customer has a question I can’t answer, I have someone else to turn to.”

Mobile-electronics stores looking to add performance products should also realize the challenges in stocking the proper inventory. Price notes the difficulty of finding the right distributors. But both Price and Larson prove that identifying the correct niches can help business. Price’s shop does electrical troubleshooting, while for Larson’s store, being near a raceway and refilling nitrous tanks has been advantageous.

Paul Moritz, Council Relations Director of SEMA’s Street Performance Council, believes that diversification can help retailers who may be experiencing a loss in sales due to the economic slowdown.

“I think stores are expanding because it’s tough right now, and if you already have the storefront and can sell related equipment, why not take the opportunity to do so? ” Moritz said. “If someone is looking to purchase a car stereo, and they see an air intake, which is easy to install and can increase performance by 10%, there’s a good chance he will buy it.”

For the full SEMA story, click here.

For more original specialty-equipment market research, click here.