There’s no denying that the tyre business has become more digital and connected than ever before, but there are a number of sides to that equation. We know that between 60 and 80 per cent of tyre-buying consumers were doing pre-sale research online before the pandemic. Similarly, industry insiders have been saying that 10 per cent of tyres are bought online for something like a decade now. But anecdotal evidence from tyre retailers themselves reveals that, amongst those working for the large chains at least, many customers walk through the door to receive a tyre change that has already been booked online. Apparently, some of the younger generation just walk in and hold up a QR code on their phone! This month’s Tyres & Accessories looked into these kinds of questions, asking what it means for the tyre business to be digitally native. And it starts with a brand-new ranking of the leading tyre retail, e-tail and tyre comparison websites.
Top 10 tyre retailers 2023: Halfords closing in on pole position
Kwik Fit and its other ETEL-related brands (Tyre City, Tyre Pros and Central Tyre) have dominated the UK tyre retail landscape for years. More recently, Halfords has made our annual tyre retail ranking a two-horse race. However, Michelin’s ATS Euromaster network remains a significant player and other chains such as the Micheldever- and ultimately Sumitomo-owned Protyre have grown consistently over a long period of time. But none of that tells the whole story. While big chains generate significant levels of value and volume, franchise networks like HiQ and First Stop represent another dimension. And medium-sized chains are often so good at what they do that they end up being bought by larger businesses at a premium. And yet none of that reflects the importance of the vast majority of the market – the independent tyre businesses with one or two centres. That’s why June’s Tyres & Accessories aimed to present a more panoramic view of the undeniably indispensable tyre retail business. Here, T&A presents our annual tyre retail ranking as a way of keeping you informed of the lay of the land in the ever-changing tyre retail landscape.
Tyre retail ranking 2023, 11-25: In’n’Out continues to grow
11th-placed Just Tyres maintained a total of 38 tyre retail locations, according to our 2023 table. However, that figure is one centre lower than it was this time last year. Nevertheless, the total remains one branch greater than five years ago.
Times have been tough in the last couple of years, but if the growth of the top 25 tyre retailers in the UK is anything to go by, the nation’s leading tyre retail businesses are taking triumph from adversity. Of course, Halfords’ acquisition of National Tyres and Autocare’s parent company at the end of 2021 makes up a big part of the new UK tyre retail landscape, but it is clear that adding branches to existing networks (either by organic growth or by acquisition) is a common theme across the board.
Continuing our 2022 analysis of the leading UK tyre retailers by branch count, Just Tyres is this years number 11, having grown via the addition of two new centres which brings its total to 39. At this rate, Just Tyres is likely to overtake Mr Clutch into 10th position during the next year or two.
The UK’s leading retailers 2022 (#15 to #25) – New entries and stable growth
This year the top 25 table has been characterised by growth virtually across the board. However, something that stands out in positions 15 to 25 is that there have been a couple of new entries onto the ranking in addition to this. Exemplifying stability in the market, In ‘n’ Out Autocentres appears to have remained in 15th position with 27 branches.
Following the publication of our run-down of the top 10 UK tyre retails on Wednesday and then our overview of positions 11 to 20 yesterday, today’s concluding part of our 2021 tyre retail landscape series takes a closer look at positions 21 to 25 on the leader board, culminating in the addition of new entry Kerr’s Tyres in 25th place.
Autocentres growing in prominence – UK’s top tyre retailers 2021 (11-20)
As can be seen in the top 10 table published yesterday, Halfords Autocentres remains in second place nationally in our 2021 ranking of the UK’s largest retail operations by branch count. Continuing our three-article series on this subject, today’s instalment focuses on places 11 to 20 and finds that the medium to large sized positions are increasingly being taken by autocentre style businesses that make as much money from parts and repairs as they do from tyres (and more than traditional fast fits).
With a pandemic, an MOT extension and three lockdowns to contend with, describing the last year as “difficult” would be an understatement. Nevertheless, tyre retailers have demonstrated that they are not only key workers essential to keeping the British Isles rolling, but also versatile and resilient businesspeople during the last 12 months. A quick look at the top 25 UK tyre retail chains 2021 table reveals that it has been a more eventful year than normal in terms of branch openings and closings, but overall the clear message is one of consolidation. As a result, the top 25 UK tyre retail chains wield more power than ever. Specifically, the top 25 now run 2528 branches between them. When our coverage of this area began back at the end of the 2008/2009 tax year, the figure was 1978. During the interim, the rough estimate for the total number of tyre retailers national has stayed stable at around 10,000 specialists (that number is roughly double that if you include general garages). This means the top 25 occupy roughly 25 per cent of the number of branches, up 6 percentage points since 2009.
Halfords charges into second place in the 2020 UK tyre retail ranking
At the moment it is easy to get side-tracked by all the talk of the coronavirus. But, while it is clearly an important subject, the tyre business has a century or more of pre-history, has a present and has a future. With this in mind, May’s edition of Tyres & Accessories continues in line with the last eight years of research by counting and ranking the nation’s largest tyre retail chains.
The methodology is simple, we contact companies, consult publicly available sources and use third-party data where necessary in order to triangulate our tyre retail landscape. Of course, the present circumstances may look significantly different due to the nations’ current lockdown status (see Which Garages are Open During Lockdown). However, the shape of the tyre retail business before the lockdown will surely help the retail trade strategize for its ongoing future after lockdown, making this data as actionable as ever.
The word unprecedented has been used a lot recently. However, it is true to say that the UK tyre industry has never experienced a set of circumstances like this and hasn’t witnessed national action on this scale since the second world war. So, which tyre garages are open during lockdown?
Growth and stability amongst leading UK tyre retailers
6 - 10 stability, but battle for ninth position
Outside of the top five, there is a certain degree of stability amongst the remaining five companies. Those in sixth, seventh and eighth position (McConechy’s, The Tyre Group and Lodge) appear to have remained stable in terms of branch count, with 61, 58 and 40 branches respectively. However, it is worth considering all this in the context of ULM Services Ltd the fleet-orientated cooperation Universal, Lodge and McConechy’s set up during 2017. Put those three partners together and we have 119 branches and another strong contender for fifth position on the table.
ETEL continues to lead top 20 UK tyre retailers 2019
After years of expansion amongst the top 20 UK tyre retailers, the latest data shows that this trend peaked in 2017/2018 when the top 20 accounted for 2014 branches. The same 20 tyre retailers had 1980 branches between them in 2018/2019. And what’s more, the reorganisation of one retailer alone accounted for a 40-centre decline in branch count, with the overall figure remaining positive due to growth at other chains. Here Tyres & Accessories analyses the branch count data in the context of 10 years of comparable research.
Micheldever/Protyre moves up to fourth, Lodge Tyres jumps in retail rankings
In last year’s ranking of the top tyre retailers in the UK, Tyres & Accessories predicted that the pace of change in the top 20 chains by branch count would result in some jostling for position. This has proved entirely accurate, as two major acquisitions have brought two of 2017’s top 20 into the fold of higher ranked companies, leading to both Micheldever/Protyre, leapfrogging HiQ into fourth place as predicted last year, and Lodge Tyre, into the top 10 from joint-14th last year, making significant jumps in this year’s table. Most other retailers have held relatively stable positions in terms of the number of stores, while our most recent additions to the table, Eden Tyres (15 stores) and Elite Garages (13) were identified as narrowly missing out on places last year.
Close, but not yet in the top 20 – tyre retailers pushing forward
By definition, the top 20 ranking focuses its attention on the 20 largest retail chains in a given year. However, it would be wrong to assume that there aren’t equally important changes outside the top 20. Take the next five positions for example, there have also been significant changes in the fifth tier (positions 21 to 25 inclusive). And, with some 20,000 points of sale where tyres can be bought in total (including garages), all 25 positions only account for the top 10 per cent of the overall market. With that in mind, let’s take a look at those that just missed out on the attention of being in the top 20.