Not quite four years ago Amazon picked its first partner for tire installation and balancing services. Consumers buying any tire on Amazon.com could have it installed at any of that installer’s 400-plus stores. Today, that entire network of stores has closed.
That partner was Sears Auto Centers.
This end has been apparent for quite some time, but it’s finally official. A year ago, in Modern Tire Dealer’s 2021 Facts Issue, there were 39 Sears Auto Centers still in operation.
A year later, it boils down to a message on the company’s website. “Auto Centers have closed for business. We appreciate your patronage over the years.”
At one time, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold more than 20 million tires a year. In 2017, now retired MTD Editor Bob Ulrich put that number at around 3 million. At the time, there were still 650 Sears Auto Centers — and that reflected a closure of about 150 stores in the nine years previous.
Twenty years ago the Sears brand held 4% of the U.S. replacement market share in passenger tires — and 3.5% in light truck tires. By 2011, Sears had dropped to 1% market share in passenger tires, and had already fallen off the list in the light truck tire category. A year later, the Sears name disappeared off MTD’s exclusive brand share lists.
Sears was also an important part of the story for Michelin North America Inc. In 2015 Sears and Michelin celebrated 50 years in business together. In that time, Sears had sold more than 135 million Michelin-made tires — more than any other retailer.
In February 2017 the company tried to reinvent its automotive story with DieHard Auto Center Driven by Sears. The stores leaned on the popular DieHard name and sold DieHard-brand tires, which had been unveiled a year earlier. But the concept never grew beyond the first test markets in Texas and Michigan.
At the end of 2019 Advance Auto Parts Inc. acquired the DieHard brand for $200 million. Independent tire dealers can sell DieHard batteries, and in September 2021 the 2,200-plus Bridgestone Retail Operations (BRSO) stores started stocking them.
So the DieHard name lives on, but so does another bright spot, and this one is firmly in the tire category.
A good number of the people who grew up making a living with Sears Auto Centers remain at work in the tire industry, and many of them have found a home at independent tire dealerships across the U.S. We’re lucky to have them in our corner.