It’s no surprise that tire dealers, like the entire country, are feeling the pain of the COVID-19 crisis. Modern Tire Dealer wanted to find out the extent and sent out a survey to retail tire dealers on March 26.
The results show that more than 90% of independent tire dealers report that their business has already been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 25% reporting that their gross revenue has dropped more than 50%. A full 50% of the respondents reported decreases between 30% and 50%.
Of the 250-plus randomly selected dealers who responded to MTD’s survey, 90% expect to see a drop in new tire sales in the coming weeks. Eighty-three percent expect to see a decline in walk-in business, while 68% expect to see a drop in preventive maintenance revenue and 65% expect to see a drop in auto repair revenue.
Fifty-seven percent believe their dealerships will suffer from a decline in revenue generated by tire-related services like flat repairs. From a supply standpoint, 48% expect to see slower delivery of vehicle parts, while 43% expect a slow down in office and cleaning supplies.
One respondent said he expects to see a 75% or more “drop in retail business and around a 10% to 15% drop in commercial business.” Several expect slower delivery of tires, and another said, “Honestly, (we’re) not sure” what will happen.
To offset decreased revenues, it is apparent that dealers are already, or will be, taking action. When asked “What proactive actions are you taking to minimize financial damage,” 62% of respondents said they are postponing new hires and 43% said they are halting or suspending expansion projects at existing locations. Forty percent said they are cutting advertising and marketing budgets, 33% said they are cutting technician positions and 32% said they are reducing their number of overall staff positions.
Twenty-six percent report they are reducing pay, commission and/or benefits for existing employees, 25% say they are halting or suspending the opening of new locations and 18% report they are halting or suspending certain services. Ten percent said they are working to streamline their current product screens, which could include dropping certain brands.
Several respondents told MTD that they are cutting employees’ hours and even store hours of operation in an effort to mitigate financial damage. One respondent has asked his outside sales reps to work from home. Another is “using half a crew but paying all employees for full-time.” Yet another said, “We are going day by day,” and another is examining “what we can do without.”
When asked “What measures are you taking inside and around your stores to help ensure the safety of both your employees and customers?” 94% of respondents said they are increasing the frequency and intensity of sanitizing employee-facing surfaces, such as computer keyboards and shop tools, inside their stores. Ninety percent reported they are doing the same with customer-facing surfaces and items, including sales counters, tire displays, door handles, car door handles and steering wheels.
One respondent told MTD that his employees are “asking customers to drive their vehicles in and out of the bay, guided by sales staff.” His dealership also is offering complimentary Uber services for customers since “our waiting rooms have been closed off.”
Another respondent is offering curbside service so customers “don’t have to come in the shop or showroom.” Several respondents report they have closed their showrooms to the public completely.
When it comes to communicating measures that respondents are taking to customers, 72% are letting customers know verbally, at the point of sale, while 53% are doing so via phone. Forty-nine percent are using social media to communicate and 49% are using traditional methods, including exterior and interior store signage. Forty-two percent are using their websites and 30% said they are communicating via email.
One respondent said his dealership has taken out “dedicated virus-response ads on local radio.” Another said, “We were open but closed because customers ignored our preventive measures.” And another dealer, in response to the last question, replied, “What customers?”
Stay tuned to www.moderntiredealer.com for updates on how independent tire dealers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.