"You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometime, you just might find — you get what you need.” Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote these lyrics in 1969 (or 1968, depending on who you believe) and I’m sure they weren’t thinking about independent tire dealers at the time.
But those words do have an unexpected resonance some 50 years later.
Very few of us are going to get everything we want this summer. That’s just the way it is. But I’m convinced that your business will get at least some of what it needs over the next several months. Here are five reasons why:
1. People are driving again. According to INRIX, a firm that monitors transportation trends, passenger car travel is increasing in every state. As of this writing, seven states have seen increases of 10% or more: South Dakota (14%), Wyoming (14%), North Dakota (13%), Maine (12%), Kansas (11%), New Hampshire (10%) and Vermont (10%.) All states, except Hawaii, have recovered at least 24% of their maximum mile reduction, which occurred after COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders were enacted. And in what will be of great interest to those of you who sell and service commercial truck tires, long-haul truck movement is starting to rebound. At press time, INRIX reported that three states — Michigan (7%), Alaska (6%) and Massachusetts (4%) — have seen increased truck movement levels of at least 4%.
2. People will continue to drive. Despite a modest, Memorial Day-related uptick in air travel, fewer people are flocking to airports. Slightly more than 348,600 travelers passed through TSA checkpoints on Friday, May 22. Compare that to more than 2.5 million travelers who were screened on the same date in the United States in 2019. In a late-April conference call with investors, Thomas Nealon, president of Southwest Airlines Co., predicted that the airline’s capacity in May would fall 60% to 70% compared to pre-pandemic schedules, and June capacity was expected to drop to around 50%. (Southwest suffered a historic 500% year-over-year cancellation rate in March.) Until confidence in the safety of air travel has been restored, few of your customers are going to fly to vacation spots — whether aboard Southwest or any other carrier — this summer. But after three months of being cooped up inside their homes, people will want to go places by car. And I’m sure many of you are seeing this already.
3. Motorists will hold onto their vehicles longer. More than 40 million people have lost their jobs due to the economic fall-out from COVID-19. Very few are going to rush out to buy a new car, pickup or SUV within the next several months — or even through the end of the year, for that matter. Sales of new consumer vehicles in North America are expected to drop nearly 27% in 2020, according to HIS Markit projections — bottoming out at around 12.2 million units. This means that cash-strapped consumers will continue to squeeze more miles out of the cars that are currently in their garages. At some point, these vehicles’ tire issues — and other maintenance needs — will need to be addressed, which brings me to our next reason.
4. Vehicle owners will prioritize safety. Expensive vehicle modifications, custom wheels, plus-sizing — these things fall under the category of customer “wants,” not “needs.” Few customers will walk into your shop and request a $3,000 lift kit installation this summer. But I guarantee you that vehicle owners will pay more attention to their tires as they maintain a heightened focus on personal safety. This is a great time to remind your customers that tires are essential to their well-being, as well as the well-being of their families, and as such, should be professionally assessed for potential replacement soon.
5. You are ready to capitalize on all of the above. Whether out of necessity or by design, many of you have used the last three months to get leaner, meaner and more efficient — shoring up your systems and improving your processes to serve customers more effectively when demand for what you do starts to rebound. That time is now. Remember — nobody is more qualified or able to take care of customers’ tire and vehicle needs than you and your people. Make your customers believe that, too.
Lest you think that I’m getting carried away, I do realize that this probably won’t be the most profitable summer you’ve ever experienced. But I believe it will provide a much-needed boost to your business — and a solid foundation for the rest of the year. And that’s what everyone needs right now. ■
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.