MTD Exclusive: The Latest From TireHub
In our latest exclusive interview with Peter Gibbons, CEO of TireHub LLC, we cover all the essentials, including the current state of tire supply, expansion plans, and what the potential Goodyear-Cooper deal could mean for TireHub and its customers.
Tire demand, supply and inventory
Every tire dealer is dealing with issues related to tire supply, and Gibbons acknowledges that “yes, supply is tight, but our job is to provide our suppliers with the best possible information so we can prioritize and schedule effectively.”
Gibbons says “product availability is our No. 1 priority, and we continue to add inventory to supply our dealers.” The wholesale distributor’s investments in ToolsGroup (a tool that manages the variables in the supply chain with demand forecasting, inventory optimization and replenishment planning) and Power BI (a reporting tool) are helping TireHub “provide a high-quality demand signal to our suppliers.”
He says, “We are still seeing many of the pre-COVID demand trends persist. Demand for light truck, SUV, and CUV continues to grow, which also contributes to the broader growth of large-diameter tires. That said, the financial impact of the pandemic has forced many consumers to make more economic choices. We have seen an increase in mid-to-low tier demand as consumers seek to balance value and performance. Likely related, there is increased demand for all-weather and all-season offerings. Advancements in this category allow consumers to have year-round performance without owning two sets of tires.”
Tire delivery and customer service
Retail tire dealers — TireHub’s customers — demand frequent deliveries and products being available in warehouses. We asked Gibbons about TireHub’s current delivery strategy, and how it’s making customer service improvements in this all-important area.
“We’ve fine-tuned our delivery philosophy over the last two-and-a-half years to meet the needs of customers, but it has always stayed true to what it was built on — taking care of dealers and retailers.
“We provide up to three times-a-day deliveries to customers within 20 miles, two times-a-day deliveries to customers within 60 miles, and one time-a-day delivery to customers within 120 miles. Our strategy is to continually improve; have the right inventory in the right place at the right time; make sure customers can be serviced from their closest TLC; and keep customers at the center of our plan.”
All of that is helped by a series of tools. ToolsGroup and Power BI play a role here too, he says, in addition to QuickPay (an online payment and invoicing system), Roadnet (route optimization technology), FreshWorks (a customer relationship management tool), TireHub Now (a platform that shows real-time inventory and order information, plus online ordering) and TireHub Pass (a system dealers use to interact with the wholesaler.)
Gibbons says all of those tools “indicate our commitment to serve customers with what they want, when they want it.”
In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, customer service took a turn.
“There was certainly a period last year where our dealers and retailers needed us to be a different type of partner. We got many calls from customers concerned about paying bills or remaining open, and each time, our response was to listen to their stories, offer support and demonstrate our commitment to them. Holding our inventory levels during the worst days of Q2 signaled our dedication to being there for our dealers.
“Like everyone, we saw a major slowdown in April (of 2020), but in the second half of the year, sales increased and retail business returned. We ended the year relatively flat compared to 2019, and that was due to the hard work and sacrifices of our Hubbers. Their focus, care, decision-making, relentless execution, and willingness to change the trajectory of TireHub was remarkable.”
Expanding into new markets
On March 1 TireHub announced its move into a new market: West Palm Beach, Fl. The company opened a 40,000 square-foot distribution center to serve that market, which previously had been served by locations in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
So what’s next on the expansion plan?
“We plan to relocate or expand in at least five total markets this year (including West Palm Beach),” Gibbons says.
The Goodyear-Cooper deal
The Feb. 22 announcement that Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. — one of the operators of TireHub — planned to acquire Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. collided with TireHub staging its national meeting for about 300 employees. The meeting, held online this year, is for sales and operations leaders, TireHub’s customer-facing sales teams and the leaders of its logistics centers (distribution centers.)
“Everyone came together for two-and-a-half days to understand the strategy and ambition for the year ahead,” Gibbons says.
As for what the Goodyear-Cooper deal will mean for TireHub, Gibbons says it’s time to wait and see.
“The announcement is an exciting development, but as you know, specifics about the combined company will take some time to come together. Until then, it’s business as usual for us and we remain focused on saying ‘yes’ to our customer’s Goodyear, Bridgestone, Dunlop, Firestone, Kelly, Fuzion, Toyo, Lemans and Prinx needs.”
TireHub doesn’t currently stock Cooper’s products, and asked if those tires will be available to TireHub customers, and what that might mean for other brands already stocked in the company’s warehouses, Gibbons didn’t offer any hints.
“Specifics about the combined company and any subsequent actions for TireHub will take some time to come together.”