Goodyear is going to sell tires direct to consumers online. Their stated motivation is getting their market share of the 80 million “Millenials” who prefer to shop online. Let’s consider the implications for the tire industry and your independent shop.
This plan was unveiled at their January 2015 dealer meeting and involves participating dealers getting an installation fee and a commission for their services instead of actually making their normal markup on the sale.
As soon as I read this news a few things came to mind:
- This is big news
- If it sells tires, then Michelin and Bridgestone might not be far behind
- Some dealers are going to be upset.
So far, numbers 1 and 3 were dead on. I’m not writing this with any ill will towards Goodyear. I know a lot of people that have made a great living selling their products. I do know that this is a major step to take with the hope that they’ll get a piece of the online tire business, which in the US is only 6% of the market. According to Modern Tire Dealer magazine editor Bob Ulrich, that share hasn’t really increased much since 2008. (Maybe that’s because tires might not be the greatest thing to buy online. I get books, skateboards, and toasters, but tires are a little more complicated.)
And then you’ve got to go face the INSTALLER. You know, the guy that tells you that you really should have bought them from him and gotten a better price, different tire, saved the shipping expense, gotten the proper size/ load range/ speed rating and asks the ever popular “take yer ground beef to McDonalds too? So Goodyear is hoping that going directly after the online shopper is worth aggravating their dealers. But as Kyle Stock of Bloomberg News says, “…it’s not a riskless strategy. The Akron-based tire maker’s gambit could run roughshod over it’s best sales staff: the thousands of small businesses… that can easily nudge a customer from one manufacturer to another.”
From the comments I’ve heard and read, the nudging has commenced. Here are just a few examples: Bill Denvir, a tire dealer from Connecticut wrote a letter to Tire Business saying that over the past 10 years independent dealer’s market share has eroded from car dealer, big box store, and price club competition. He states that Goodyear’s plan would convert him from being a tire dealer to “simply be a convenient installation station for online retailers.” He further states, “The Denvir Tire Shop will no longer sell any Goodyear product.” It’s not just him. So far it’s been a negative with everyone I’ve spoken with. I asked Mark Pollard, who operates 3 Wilson Tire outlets in New England, for his thoughts. He said “2 thumbs down.” When I asked if I could quote him, he said “sure, but make it 3 thumbs down.” So who are the potential winners in all of this? My best guess is the “Tier 2” players. And not just Cooper, Hankook, Toyo, and Yokohama because we sell them. General, Conti, BFG, and Firestone might be where dealers turn. I know the reps that supply us with our brands all tout PROFITABILITY as the number one reason why a dealer should consider them. Time will tell if this all blows over, or becomes a turning point. Independent tire dealers, as the name implies, can be awfully independent. Smart manufacturers would be wise to remember this.