UK winter tyre sector is growing
The UK tyre industry has been taking deliberate steps to develop its fledgling winter tyre market for more almost a decade. Over the years improvements have accelerated with the passing of time. Now, new research produced by market analysts GfK suggest sales are accelerating faster than ever.
According to the analysts at GfK, the winter tyre market started selling in particularly developed volumes during the period between October 2010 and February 2011 when unit sales showed growth of over 85 per cent on the same period the previous year.
The following year sales grew again by over 70 per cent in terms unit volume. According to GfK, this was “solely on the back of growth expectation as during October 2011to February 2012 as most of the country did not experience sustained cold weather or more particularly snow.” Far from the nightmare of a winter season experienced by some of the arguably more developed winter tyre markets on the continent, the UK experienced sustained growth.
However, that said – and this won’t come as a surprise to anyone – this seemingly unending growth is reported to have stalled during the last winter season (October 2012 to February 2013). This winter saw sales fall by around 30 per cent. However, GfK reports that these levels are still in excess of the very cold winter of Oct 2010 to Feb 2011, which was hailed as something of a winter tyre success.
How big is the winter sector in terms of volume?
Percentages are all well and good, but while helpful for getting a feel of which way the market is going, we also need a reference point if these numbers are to have any real value. So with this in mind, how big is the winter sector in terms of volume?
According to Kevin Glynn, Account Director, Auto at GfK, if we look only at sales from independent dealers we can gain an understanding of the relationship on average pricing between winter and summer tyres (not including fleet sales). His view is that winter tyres are worth the effort to sell as on average they go for around 1.3 times the price of summer tyres.
Are there particular sizes that are particularly common? Again, if we ignore any anomalies caused by fleet sales tyre sizes in winter reportedly reflect the pattern we see in summer tyres with the UK’s perennial favourite size (205/55R16) being the best seller in a H speed rating.
Taking GfK’s sell-out data to together with ETRMA’s sell-in data for roughly the same period presents us with an interesting conflict. With ETRMA saying the European winter tyre market plummeted by about 20 per cent and GfK putting the decline in single digits there are two particularly plausible explanations. Firstly that the demand has been incredibly strong and this has been supplied by non-manufacturers or that secondly dealers have got used to de-stocking inventories during these straightened times and spend last winter selling off the previous year’s stock. Of course the third option is some kind of combination of the two. Perhaps there is increased demand and this is being fulfilled by whoever is offering the best deal, but perhaps we are seeing a de-stocking effect in action as well.