"Cautiously optimistic" describes how many independent tire dealers feel as they move through the second half of what has been an incredibly tumultuous year. This week, MTD will share what executives from several independent tire dealerships that appear on the 2020 MTD 100 think the rest of 2020 will bring and how they are positioning their businesses for continued success. (Read MTD Editor Mike Manges' recent Tire Talk blog about the 2020 MTD 100 here!)
Brooks Swentzel, president of S&S Tire Service, which is ranked number 54 on this year's MTD 100, says his company is focused on getting its new distribution center in Tulsa, Okla., up and running. But that's just one task on the the dealership's "to-do" list for the rest of 2020.
Lexington, Ky.-based S&S Tire, which has 12 wholesale distribution centers and 21 commercial tire locations, added two former GCR Tire & Service commercial centers in West Virginia last year. (One of those centers came with a retread plant.)
Growing with existing customers will also be a priority. "We need to do a better job of gaining shelf space within our network," says Swentzel. "There's a lot of shelf space to be taken. We just have to go in and be a value to the customer and earn that business."
Wholesale customers are telling S&S Tire that end users are gravitating toward "tier-three" products. Swentzel says it's too early to tell if that trend will continue into next year.
"We have programs with all the top-tier manufacturers," he notes. "I think a lot will be predicated on what they do during the second half. I hope the rebound will be shaped like a V-curve. But my crystal ball is broken. I don't have the answer. Plus, this is an election year - and sometimes in an election year, things can go crazy. There are so many factors."
With no plans to acquire or build new locations during the second half of 2020, S&S Tire will focus on controlling its costs. "We have three big expenses: warehouses, a lot of trucks and a lot of inventory," says Swentzel. "The other factor is people. We've furloughed some. And we've had to look at how we deliver tires to our customers, who - on the wholesale side - have been fantastic.
"We've spent the last several months putting metrics, measurements and plans in place to make sure that as we come back, we come back healthier than we were, pre-COVID. By that, I mean truck utilization, operations, sales - we're looking at everything."