Getting the cold shoulder: If you haven´t received your snow tires by the time you read this headline, it may be too late
The uncertainty of Mother Nature has tire dealers in the Snow Belt always wondering how many tires they have to order. But snow it will, and when they need to order depends on their ability to get product at the drop of a snowflake.
Wholesale dealers in upstate New York, along Lake Erie to the west and Lake Ontario to the east, have to order early. Bill Watkins, general manager of Moore´s Tire Sales Inc., says he had to have his snow tire order in by June 15; his price sheets were ready by the middle of July.
Moore´s, a wholesale and retail tire distributor based in Owego, N.Y., initially ordered 100,000 Weathermaster tires from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and 20,000 Lee brand tires from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Watkins says that probably won´t be enough.
"Whenever they have (our order ready) we take it because we don´t know when their next production date is. If I don´t have the tires by August and September, production might not begin again until October or November, and by then it´s too late. I have to have the snow tires before the first snow or I missed the boat -- by far.
"Our fill-ins throughout the year will depend on Cooper´s inventory."
What if the main supplier is out of tires? "I´ve bought container loads from overseas," says Watkins. "We´ll get them one way or another."
Tom Korosec, a route salesman for Moore´s Tire, says for him, the whole snow tire program starts as soon as the home office gets the price sheets out. The timeframe could be August if all goes well, or September at the latest.
Seven feet of snow
Scott Jarrell´s Reid´s Tires in Hamburg, N.Y., is located two miles from Lake Erie. "Last year, we had seven feet of snow in two days. It cripples you," says owner Scott Jarrell. "The people can´t get out of their driveways, and if they can, they are banned from the roads."
Snow tire sales kick in at the end of September and usually last to the beginning of January, according to Jarrell, who sells 500 to 600 snow tires a year. "But right around Christmas it just falls off the face of the earth. You can´t compete with Toys"R"Us."
Paul Pittner, director of logistics for Buffalo-based Dunn Tire LLC, says the timeframe in which to order snow tires is from April to mid-May. "(Tire) manufacturers will give you up until June in some cases to amend those orders. And then that´s it. The manufacturers are building to the forecasts, hopefully."
There are no re-orders, he says. "If you don´t have them by November 1, it doesn´t do us any good. (We will) scramble among ourselves to see if anybody has tires left over. And dealers end up buying from each other, basically."
In addition to vehicle registrations, the yearly Dunn Tire snow tire forecast takes into account newer model year vehicles. "We look at the emerging sizes and what the trends are," says Pittner.
"Our top 10 sizes in normal, day-to-day business will mirror the top 10 sizes in snow tires," says Mike O´Neill, Dunn Tire´s director of operations. "(Customers with) V- and Z-rated tires are almost forced to go back to snow tires up here."
Roger Culbert is owner of Culbert´s Wholesale Tire Co. in Niagara Falls, N.Y., near the Pennsylvania border. He says his business, primarily retail despite the name, has no problem getting snow tires. The majority of his orders are placed in October, unless he pre-sells some units.
"I have enough suppliers that I always have access to snow tires, no matter how rough the winter we have," he says.
Culbert has been in the business 27 years. He says he used to buy his snow tires direct. "I´d order in June and July and they would ship them in August."
Now he buys at the last minute because he knows he can get them from any number of wholesale distributors in Buffalo and Pennsylvania. "They all stock snow tires. When one wholesaler runs out, he´s out of luck. But not me. I´m never without a (snow tire) supplier."