Motorists no longer want to manage their replacement wheels. The centres that offer a storage service know how to take advantage of it.
Let’s start with two facts.
- More and more consumers are leaving it to tire centres to store their tire packages for the upcoming season.
- It is difficult to make this service profitable.
That being said, proper inventory management of the thousands of tires that are entrusted to these dealers can reduce costs and also make communication with the customer more efficient.
To set the ball rolling, we spoke to several tire centre managers about the issue of unclaimed tires.
We are talking about those orphaned tires abandoned by their owners who have moved, changed cars or, more sadly, passed away between seasons.
According to the rigour applied by the tire centre, these dropouts are not frequent.
But some managers who don’t have a system for tracking their customers’ tire inventories may be left holding the bag, sometimes unsuspectingly, for tires that have been forgotten for years.
“A good idea that came from one of our employees is to change the colour code on customers’ tires every year,” says Alain Roy, Vice-President of Garage Charles Turcotte in Trois-Rivières.
“At a glance, we can see what’s lying around in the warehouse.”
But the tires left by customers have been systematically inventoried for the past three years, which has made it possible to clean up and quickly identify the orphans.
A billed service
All three managers we spoke with for this article charge a fee for tire storage.
It must be said that if at the beginning a small amount of the customers requested this service, they are now almost the majority to use it.
The tire centre must find the space, set up an inventory system, allocate human resources to handling and insure it. It is normal then that the customer is charged.
But, by all accounts, these storage fees do not make it profitable but cover a portion of the costs.
Co-owner of Groupe Potvin, which has five branches in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, Marie-Ève Gagnon summarizes the company’s policy regarding abandoned tires in its warehouses.
“You have to keep track of them because we keep between 3,000 and 4,000 tires per place of business for our customers. We systematically contact customers whose tires we store one month before the season starts.
“If we don’t hear back from them after two years of testing, we resell the tires and rims or send the tires for recycling if they are too old.”
As Gagnon explains, abandoned wheels are quite rare and often involve low-value tires.
Instead of paying the storage fee, customers give it up if they have changed cars or addresses.
Our three managers explain that the condition of the tire, as well as its brand and dimensions, are systematically noted in the inventory of stored tires.
This is also important to establish the insurance coverage needed to protect these assets whose cumulative value is rapidly increasing.
If upon removal, the level of wear indicates that it is time for replacement, the customer will be notified directly at the counter.
He can make the decision to buy new tires immediately or ask for a restart before next season.
This information is noted in the file.
“Our computer system allows us to receive targeted reminders so we know which of the customers that leave their tires with us need to buy new ones,” explains Donald Tremblay, President of OK Tire St-David in Lévis.
“Obviously, we prefer that they buy their replacement tires as soon as they are diagnosed, which guarantees that they won’t go shopping elsewhere between seasons.
The advantage of them also is that they have a better chance of getting exactly what they want. Certainly, it’s important for us to have the tires ahead of time as well, so we can put them on the customer’s rims during the quiet time.”
The customer will be contacted by phone or, new technologies oblige, by text message, according to his preference.
A VIP treatment
That being said, customers who entrust their tires to their garages are on a VIP list, so to speak.
“We give our regular customers who have their tires stored the first choice for making an appointment,” says Alain Roy of Trois-Rivières.
“Since we are in the context of labour scarcity and the installation of tires is more and more complex and time-consuming, we have to be selective and our customers understand this. We work as far upstream as possible. Our retirees, for example, are the first on the list to make an appointment. They drive their cars less and don’t mind bringing their appointments forward.”
At the garages of our three specialists, the list of clients is linked to software that enables programmable alerts.
We can thus isolate people who have not claimed their tires for two seasons or make an appointment with a customer on a date agreed upon and noted in his file.
With this trend of motorists managing two sets of rim-mounted tires, offering the storage service is a must.
According to our stakeholders, between 40 and 60% of regular customers’ tires are now in their custody.
Taking advantage of the lull and wishing to be able to better control these inventories, Marie-Ève Gagnon completely overhauled her group’s warehouse management system.
“Now it takes us two minutes to locate a tire. Now it takes us two minutes to locate a tire,” Gagnon explains, adding that the warehouse itself was ergonomically designed with the heaviest wheels at the bottom of the storage area.
While she admits that the storage fees do not make her a profit, she does see it as a very effective retention tool.
Donald Tremblay agrees.
“Managing tires also means having a customer who comes to us twice a year and to whom we can offer our mechanical maintenance services. We also offer wheel refurbishing services through a sister company.
“This way we can add value to our storage service, which is not very profitable by itself.”