One of the first points to make is where the relationship between the wholesale tyre industry and the retail tyre industry will ultimately end with the combination of the online revolution. I don’t profess to know the answer?
Up to recent times things have been ticking along in the tyre industry, with different online developments coming at us at a leisurely pace. As a progressive tyre retailer these new ideas have helped me move my business on. Instead of moaning about the increase in new web sites, that sell tyres at very low margins, I have joined the “quantity and not quality “brigade.
We became a fitting station for Blackcircles. I must admit at first I did this because I was intrigued at why my customers were buying from Blackcircles (BC) and not from me? I soon realised when speaking to the BC customers that they were not my customers at all. Only one out of the first twenty drivers had ever visited my depot before and not for tyres.
It looked like (and still does) that the BC customers were buying the leading brands and would have normally bought the tyres from a national tyre company or Kwik-fit.
We then became a fitting station for the ASDA website. I must admit that I like this system, because although the margins are low, we actually get the full tyre sale.
The system just drives extra traffic. I also did some research as to where the ASDA customers had previously bought tyres and some of these were in fact my old customers. I had mixed feelings about this, but in the end if I had none worked with the ASDA formula then I could have lost the business to whomever else fitted the ASDA tyres in Halifax?
Our next online venture was with the Micheldever online system in conjunction with Cam-Systems stock system. This system is a very good thing for us.
It has enabled us to set up our own local prices with a stock that is held at the MD warehouse in Elland just five miles away. This is the type of system that I would recommend for the small tyre retailer. It allows you to change things around and optimize the site for Google and the other search engines.
The big thing I have learned though is that your local customers will look at your website and prices, but will NOT buy online. They will contact you by phone or actually call in with the online price. This proves to me that it does pay to go online but not everybody buys online and also gives some strength to the retailer. I am also a member of Point-S and together with our online presence then our sales are growing.
One or two things have recently come to light? This I have to mention because it may be a different ball game in the near future. As we all know by now the great Michelin have bought a French online retailer and recently Blackcircles here in the UK. In my opinion they will be driving the BC traffic through their ATS tyre retailer chain. They have said that this is what they will do in the rest of Europe and so there is no reason to believe that the UK will be any different?
Goodyear tyres did the same thing in America last year and bought an online tyre retailer to sell the Goodyear products direct to the public.
The wholesale sector is also once again trying to muscle in on shaping up a retail empire. Simpletons tyres are now linked with Kwikfit and Micheldever want to double there retail outlets (Pro Tyres).
I must admit though the old saying “what comes around goes around “comes into mind. Those of us old enough can remember all this type of thing before, but it never closed us down; in fact we go from strength to strength.
It will be interesting however though how tyre manufacturers such as Bridgestone and Continental will react to Michelin selling their tyre products on the Blackcircles web portal?
Could we develop into an American style tyre retailer system, here in the British tyre industry, where the depots only sell one manufacturer’s product, similar to Michelin now in the Costco Cash and carry outlets?
Only time will tell.
Eric Roberts, Pellon Tyres Halifax Yorkshire. UK