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Winter brings good/bad news for eastern tire dealers

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Snow usually means more snow tire sales for dealers. Ice, however, is another matter.

Winter has hit the East Coast hard the last two days. For example, an estimated 1.2 million people are out of power in the Charlotte, N.C., metropolitan area courtesy of an ice storm.

"The roads are clear, though they were a little treacherous yesterday," says David Creech, general manager of American Tire Distributors' Charlotte distribution center. "But the power lines are down. We can get to the shops, they just don't have the power to operate the machinery."

Creech says the ATD warehouse was lucky not to lose power. His trucks are still delivering product, although logistics are being handled through cell phones. Some of the dealers have closed their stores.

The local media is reporting that power will be returned in three or four days, he adds. As far south as Greenville, S.C., some people have been told it could be as long as one to two weeks.

"Whenever there's a call for bad weather, people tend to get over-anxious," says David Inscoe, president of University Tire & Auto Inc. in Charlottesville, Va., which received six inches of snow, "a lot for us."

"We had a couple of very good tire days before the storm -- snow tires, all seasons, pretty much anything people could get their hands on." However, since the storm hit, business has been slow, says Inscoe.

"We had a surge in business," says Al Saks, president of Dorchester Tire Service in Boston, Mass. "Our retail traffic has certainly increased. We've had people backed up for the past couple of days.

"But it's not like the old days, when we'd sell hundreds of tires the first day (it snowed.)"

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