Industry experts explain how to best manage tire storage for your retail customers.
At first glance, storing your customers’ tires seems like a simple undertaking. All you have to do is take them off the vehicle, place them in a back room, and wait for your customers to come back at the end of the season.
Arguably, however, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do the job, as well as best practices that can help you avoid some of the hiccups and headaches that come from a learn-as-you-go approach.
Local laws and requirements
Before setting up your warehouse space for tire storage, always contact your city officials and local fire department to determine if there are any restrictions or modifications that need to be made to your space before you can start your tire storage project.
According to Farnham, Quebec-based Martins Industries, local authorities may have restrictions on the height of the racks you can use, as well as safety requirements including the number and type of sprinklers necessary.
Insurance is another key issue that will need your attention. How much coverage will you need? What kind of insurance is necessary?
Martins strongly suggests doing your homework so that you know what you’re getting into before you sign a 10-year lease on a property, only to find that you won’t be able to proceed with your plans without having to make drastic alterations to your initial goals and expectations.
Maximizing square footage
Once you have a tire storage location selected, you’ll want to maximize the footprint so that you can store as many tires as possible. According to Martins Industries, if you are storing large quantities of tires, you will want to optimize your warehouse layout by arranging your racking back-to-back. The aisles should be at least 10-12 ft. in width to allow lift trucks (if you’re using them) to circulate safely throughout your warehouse.
If you’re storing smaller quantities of tires, Martins Industries recommends making the aisles smaller (4-5 ft. in width) to avoid wasting floor space. The company recommends using order picker lift trucks for these smaller operations.
Most experts agree that the best way to store tires is vertically and not stacked on top of one another like pancakes. Storing tires horizontally can result in scratched rims, as well as the risk that the bottom tire can be overstressed and flattened if the stacks are too high (especially if you’re storing tires without rims).
Before you put away a customer’s tires, you’ll need to do a bit of prep work. “You should wash tires and rims before you put them away,” adds Darrin Bossence, VP Sales, Dynamic Tire. “You want to get rid of the dirt, the grease, and the brake dust because it’s not good for the oils and the rubber of the tire.”
Bossence admits that in the real world, most retailers skip the washing step. So if you want to set your store apart from the competition, you might want to consider doing this little extra for your customers.
“Washing your customers’ tires has many advantages,” adds Isabelle Olivier, Marketing Manager for Martins Industries. “First, your client receives their tires clean, which provides a great service experience and can help with customer retention. Your technicians will also be working in a cleaner environment, and it will be easier to balance the tires since no dirt, mud or other elements will create heavy spots on the tire.”
Before putting the tires in storage, many industry experts recommend inspecting each tire and filling out a report so that you can inform your customers well in advance of their next visit about the condition of each tire and any need for replacements.
Each tire must then be labelled properly. Mathieu Brunel, President & CEO of Gem-Car recommends making each label large enough to read from a further distance, so they can be seen easily if they’re on a rack that’s on a 20 ft.-high rack.
Brunel also suggests colour-coding the labels, so when you walk into your warehouse you’ll know instantly which tires are for the season ahead, which ones are from the season behind, and which tires may have been forgotten by their owners from seasons past.
In order to keep track of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of tires in storage, you’ll need the right software for the job. This could be a third-party software solution specifically designed to keep track of tires, or it could be something you design in-house.
Jay Zinniger, Manager, Point S – Talon Tire in Montreal, Quebec says that he has been able to track the more than 2,200 tires he has in storage for the past 20 years with Apple’s FileMaker software. It wasn’t designed specifically for the tire industry, but Talon Tire has customized the software to make it work for their needs.
Gem-Car’s Brunel says that the software a retailer uses should not only be able to track the location of the tires but should also be able to track when a set of tires has been returned to a customer. “Let’s say a customer leaves his tires with you and then he gets a divorce,” Brunel explains.
“He comes back to get his tires, but his ex-wife already picked them up. You’ll need proof that she did so, and that’s where the software comes into play. It should keep track of when tires were given back and to whom.”
Brunel also recommends including a clause in your contract that explains what you will do with tires that are left in storage far beyond when the customer should have come back to claim them. “There should be a clause that explains you won’t keep their tires in stock forever,” he adds.
“Customers should know that they will be billed for every season and that if they leave their tires for too long then you have the right to dispose of them. If you don’t have a disclaimer, and you’re not well organized, the tires always belong to the customer.”