Specialty of the house: Not everyone sells ATV, trailer and utility tires. But those who do know the markets inside and out
There's a lot to learn about selling specialty tires, according to Gary Fehrenbach Sr., co-owner of Tire Emporium Inc. "You almost have to get into it in a big way."
That's because ATV, trailer and utility tires are not necessities like passenger and light truck tires. But someone has to sell lawn and garden tires. Outdoorsmen have to get their ATV tires (such as the Cheng Shin Jackal in the photo, a green ATV tire with camouflaged wheels) and boat trailer tires from somewhere.
In Escondido, Calif., Tire Emporium, doing business as Golden State Tire, is one of the places to go. "In the specialty tire segment, the problem you have is that even other tire dealers really don't know what they are looking for," says Fehrenbach. "Consequently, we have to ask what kind of machine it is on and what they are using it for so we can know the tread design.
"It's especially true with the ATV tires. There are so many different tread designs that tires can be very trendish."
"The specialty market is limited to the number of people that have it on the floor," says Wayne Kirby, owner and president of K&M Tire Co. in Hickory, N.C. "People don't want to put that kind of merchandise on the floor, typically, because of slow movement. And on the buying end, when a customer needs them, it's generally something specific; it's not something they buy before needing it."
ATV name game
Names can make or break a specialty tire, especially ATV tires.
Just look at Greenball Corp.'s recently introduced ATV tire names: Dirt Devil A/T, Dirt Devil X/T, Gator, Shredder R/A, Shredder X/T and Mud Hog.
Fehrenbach says it's hard to move, say, a "Mud Hawk" ATV tire in California because there's little mud. However, a tire with the name "Desert" in it might sell big. If the tire name does not apply to a specific area, "you can't give tires away. In others, you can't stock enough of them."
ATV tire popularity is not limited to recreational use. "The grove owners are taking ATVs and making work vehicles out of them," says Jerry Bierle, a salesman for Golden State Tire.
Tire Emporium, which also does business as Industrial Tire & Rubber, buys its specialty tires direct from Tireco Inc., or through ITP (Industrial Tire Products), which stocks Titan and Carlisle.
Like Fehrenbach on the West Coast, Kirby is seeing ATV tire popularity skyrocket on the East Coast. "We're beginning to see that we don't sell as many of the typical little knobby tires in the $20 to $30 range as we do the exotic tread designs now. It seems those people on the four-wheelers are really conscious of the tread designs they have."
Kirby, who sells Maxxis and, to a lesser extent, the Towmaster and Carlisle brands, says the more exotic designs can wholesale for more than $60. He also stocks lawn and garden tires ("they tend to still be seasonal") and trailer tires.
Lawn and garden tires
Every spring and fall, Monteith Tire Inc. in Goshen, Ind., sells a good amount of lawn and garden tires from Greenball. Although they still make up only a small portion of the company's overall business, it is an important and profitable segment.
"We like our customers to think of us as a one-stop shop," says Store Manager Grant Stillson. "They come here for their passenger tires, their light truck tires, etc. We want them to think of us as the place they can also go to for lawn and garden tires. It's a convenience for them, and it's add-on business for us."
Monteith uses special tire mounting and demounting equipment designed for the small lawn and garden tires. Myers Tire Supply Co. offers two such units, one from Tire Service Equipment Manufacturing Inc. (TSI CH-22), the other from Ken-Tool (both floor- and bench-mounted models).
Trailer tire trends
The radial trailer tire market "is growing by leaps and bounds," according to Tom Beasley, a sales manager/aftermarket for Greenball. K&M's Kirby adds that sales are steady year-round.
Mike Wiseman, co-owner of Wiseman Bros. Discount Tire Inc. in Muskogee, Okla., says his radial trailer tire sales are picking up as the "old nylon trailer tires" disappear. The radials "last a lot longer and don't have near the problems."
Trailer tires also are getting larger, says Wiseman, a third-generation independent tire dealer who stocks the tires at both his stores. "They used to be all 14-inch; now they are 15s and 16s." Wiseman Bros. sells Cooper, Star and Kenda brand trailer tires, and Kenda ATV and lawn and garden tires.
Tireco recently introduced its Milestar trailer tire in five sizes: ST175/80R13, ST205/75R14, ST215/75R14, ST205/75R15 and ST225/75R15. The tubeless, radial tires fit small-to-mid-size recreational trailers with 13- through 15-inch wheel diameters, says Jesse Wu, a Tireco spokesman.