Cash for Clunkers: AV Style

Linda Seid Frembes 0909

First there was the hubbub about Cash for Clunkers where people could get up to $4,500 on a used car if they bought one with better gas mileage. Now there’s talk of Cash for Caulkers – tax breaks for people who replace old furnaces and appliances for more energy efficiency ones. So what about old AV? We all have some. And if you’re an integrator, you probably have much more than most people.

So now that your piles of gear are collecting dust, is there a way to maximize any return on it? The short answer is: Yes! I spoke with Bob Buchanan, president of AVForSale, a firm in Atlanta that offers turnkey solutions for inventory management. In other words, they help companies sell their old AV.

Bob and his crew have roots dating back a decade ago while working for Caribiner International. He transitioned to his own firm when the company needed to liquidate an 85,000 square foot warehouse full of used AV gear. He had one year to clear out the warehouse and hopefully provide some return on investment. “eBay was young at the time but we tried it anyway. The amount of success was amazing,” he says.

Eventually the business grew via word of mouth and they began picking up more customers. Today, AVForSale has 400+ suppliers who are system integrators or rental & staging companies. “Historically, most system integrators don’t do a great job managing their inventory. They may need 10 projectors for a job but buy 12 for the price break. And overages on an install aren’t realized until months after when, at that point, the manufacturer doesn’t want it back. Also, there are always leftover items like cables and other accessories,” he explains. “That leftover gear is piled on a pallet with the thought it will be used for another project, but that never happens.”
The rental and staging gear comes from two different uses. The first group is from the hotel market where cosmetic issues abound. The other is rental & staging equipment that is taken on location and back, and see much more use and abuse than used hotel AV.

Smaller companies often ask for valuations whereas larger suppliers just want to get rid of the stuff and get something (anything!) back for it. “We try to manage expectations. In the current economy, used gear is selling at 25-30 percent less than before. The street determines the price, and there are fewer people looking right now,” he adds.

Total cost to the supplier is 35 percent of the sale price, which represents the cut taken by eBay and by AVForSale. Ninety percent of what AVForSale sells is listed on eBay. And for those who say “Well, I can list it myself,” Bob says, “We’ll get more money for your gear because of our reputation and the 1.4 million hits on our eBay store (linkto: every month. We also understand that you can’t just copy and paste the manufacturer’s specs. We try to create context by explaining what comes in a full system versus what you are getting from us.”

They also have automations built-in when receiving products, making the process very efficient. It enables them to move several thousand items a month. How small is too small? AVForSale will sell one projector but it has to be worth it to the supplier since that’s who pays the shipping cost to get it to Atlanta.

So here’s a quickie list if you want to get started cleaning out your warehouse or your basement of old gear and put some money back in your pocket. Before any gear brokers/used AV resellers start typing the “Hey, I can’t believe you didn’t include us on this list!” email, please note that this isn’t mean to be a complete list. It’s meant to show a smattering of places where people can buy used gear. There are many others. It’s called Google. Use it.

Linda_Seid_Frembes-0909Now, go forth and sell!

Linda Seid Frembes is a rAVe columnist who covers AV technology, installs, market trends and industry news. Linda has worked with high profile AV manufacturers, trade organization, systems integrators, rep firms and dealer/distributors in the industry including John Lyons Systems, Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW), Northern Sound & Light (NSL), and InfoComm International, among others. Reach her at