Whether you celebrate it or not, Thanksgiving is usually a day that most Americans have off, and one that is often spent with family (or, in the case of “Friendsgiving,” with friends). Since it always takes place near the end of November, the holiday always reminds everyone to consider what they are thankful for, be it in life or business. Inspired by Scott Hymas’s rousing NATM convention speech, in which the buying group’s president reminded everyone to focus on what’s going well – high demand, increased sales, and the value of independent retail brands – I had a think on my own Dealerscope-world gratitude list. Here are three list items, big and small, that for me the offer the most top-of-mind reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.
Let’s start with the obvious and most important to those in the CE and appliance retail and manufacturing sectors: Demand is way up. This is a no-brainer, and dovetails with what Hymas said in his speech. Despite inventory shortages, shipping issues, and rising prices, 86 percent of U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $785 on holiday gifts in 2021, according to NPD. This is more than in either 2019 or 2020. According to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), 183.6 million U.S. shoppers also say that this year they’ll spend an average of $528 on consumer electronics gifts – everything from laptops and gaming consoles to TVs and even accessories such as chargers. Is it any wonder that Nationwide Marketing Group’s Independent Retail Confidence Index showed a three-point jump to 69.5 percent at the start of Q4? Clearly, some dealers are awake and smelling the roses, but the rest might want to take a whiff and join in the holiday cheer because it looks like we might have at least another year of this, as some analysts predict in our cover story this month.
Secondly, I personally am grateful to have managed to skirt this pandemic without catching COVID-19, at least not knowingly, though I still sometimes wonder about that worst-ever cold that forced me to postpone a flight after CES 2020. So far, I have managed to stay COVID-free due to a mix of vaccinations, and now a booster shot, as well as the vigilant mask-wearing – properly, over my nose – in public places (like industry events). To boot, testing is so much easier now – and continues to be free in most places, even without insurance – that I do it once a week at my local pharmacy, and always have the option of over-the-counter at-home rapid and PCR tests.
Protecting my health and the health of those around me isn’t my only motivation for masking up, even though I’m fully vaccinated; frankly, I just don’t want my body to serve as a host for the development of some other vaccine-resistant mutation of this virus. It’s just basic biology.
Health benefits aside, there is a business case for vaccines: According to The NPD Group’s Annual Holiday Study, 58 percent of consumers are more comfortable shopping at brick-and-mortar retail stores due to the wide availability of vaccines. But COVID is still here, which is why 41 percent of consumers surveyed by NPD plan to start their holiday shopping early, and are likely already doing so by the time you read this.
On a lighter and more enthusiast note, I’m thankful that the resurgence of records and the turntables on which to play them continues apace. Vinyl sales rose by a whopping 94 percent to $497 million in the first half of 2021 versus 2020, making records the most profitable physical audio format, though arguably the competition isn’t that fierce in the era of digital streaming, which rose 26 percent to $5.9 billion and made up 84 percent of all recorded music revenues in the same period. Even cassettes are enjoying a comeback, and sales more than doubled last year (with Discogs announcing during October’s Cassette Week that it now had 1.1 million cassette titles in its online database).
As someone who kept his vinyl and cassette collections from high school and beyond in storage for the past decade, I’m looking forward to trying them out on a new Rega turntable — likely the entry-level P1 or step-up P3 — that I plan to splurge on before the end of the year. And though they are considerably lower-fi, my cassettes have been getting regular play on the original Becker Europa Cassette AM/FM Radio that’s in my restored 1983 Mercedes W123 300D that I’ve had the good fortune to use as a daily driver in Southern California for the past six years. (As for home play of cassettes, I invested in a Sony Walkman Professional back in the early ’90s that has needed repairing since nearly then, but I plan to tackle that in the coming year, in case anyone has any suggestions for retro audio equipment repair.) It’s no surprise that stores such as Supervinyl in Los Angeles, which we profiled in our recent interview with owner Barry Perlman, are finding success selling both vinyl and high-performance turntables by Rega and McIntosh, among other select audio components.
There’s more to put on this list, but I’m waiting until the end of the year to take a full accounting of 2021’s good stuff. Stay tuned.
Tom is the Editor in Chief of Dealerscope.