Michelin Group called Mike Welch's online tire marketplace the best in the U.K. And then the tire maker bought it for 50 million pounds — $76.2 million. Welch is turning his attention to the U.S. market and plans to launch Tirescanner, an online portal for brick and mortar tire dealers.
Welch says, “We have a very simple focus to provide drivers with the ultimate tire choice, availability, price and booking options at the best brick and mortar retail outlets across the country."
The founder of Blackcircles.com is investing $1 million of his own money in the venture to create Tirescanner.com, which will have its headquarters in Florida. He plans to launch the site in 2019 with more than 60,000 tire sizes, 60 retailers and "a handful of key manufacturer partners."
Tirescanner will offer both passenger and commercial tires. Consumers will purchase tires via the site's partner retail dealers.
“When I started Blackcircles in the U.K. in early 2000 my focus was to create an online pure play business that could compete with the big name high street retailers," Welch says. "What I’m bringing to Tirescanner is what I have learned about cost effective customer acquisition, retention and best-in-class customer experience. You could say I’m hunter turned gamekeeper.”
Blackcircles’ online conversion reached 8% at its peak, the business had a net promoter score (NPS) of over 90 and year-on-year growth of over 50% in the years before he sold the business to Michelin in 2015.
"Tirescanner is a platform that celebrates and showcases the very best of the bricks and mortar retail stores the United States has to offer. We have many thousands of tire retail outlets in the U.S. and unlike in Europe it is impossible for customers to check all of what is available to them. Tirescanner addresses that customer problem head on. Our goal is deliver an easy to use whole of market platform for customers and a low cost high performance solution for retailers to ensure they protect and grow their share of the market in the face of growing online competition."
He points to Modern Tire Dealer statistics for proof of a growing online tire sales component in the industry. In 2016 6% of replacement consumer tires were sold online in the U.S. The figure increased to 7% in 2017. And Welch says "in 2018 we have seen further market moves indicating the importance of online as a channel, not least Amazon’s continued expansion into the market and Dealer Tire's purchase of pure player Simple Tire LLC." (Welch joined Simple Tire's board in 2017.)
Welch says, “I have learned in the last 20 years running online tire businesses that it is the proposition that provides choice, price and service that wins, not price alone. Tirescanner is here to preserve value for the retailer and deliver value to the customers.
"Great online is not about driving down price, any fool can do that; it is about reinforcing and showcasing to customers the value propositions of our partners. We have created a real strength in numbers opportunity for the traditional retailers.”
Welch says, “Initially my job is three-fold; to establish customer acquisition formulas for customers who wouldn’t have otherwise chosen to engage with my retail partners, and do that at as low a cost as possible; to work up partner strategies with a handful of key tire manufacturers; and to match Tirescanner users with the very best retailers in their area.”
The Tirescanner.com website isn't yet live. Dealers interested in partnering with Tirescanner can email Welch.