Leading tyre retail websites tyre-shopper.co.uk and kwik-fit.com have been rated as amongst the top 10 automotive shopping and classified websites in the UK. In the research kwik-fit.com came fifth, while tyre-shopper was ranked in ninth place. However it is also interesting to note that the success of first placed ebaymotors.co.uk and sixth-placed 247spares.co.uk, which both sell tyres, means 40 per cent of the UK’s leading websites in this category are also online tyre distribution channels.
The survey was carried out by Experian research company Hitwise, which monitored 8.43 million UK Internet users and how they interact with more than 1 million websites, across more than 165 different industries. The ranking didn’t include details of the relative performance of alternative leading tyre retail websites such as blackcircles.com, mytyres.co.uk or bestbuytyres.co.uk.
Michael Welch has done very well indeed at the BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur awards. Not only was the Blackcircles.com managing director named one of the UK’s top 20 entrepreneurs, Welch was voted Most Outstanding Entrepreneur, an honour that comes with a £20,000 business grant. This is, admittedly, a well-deserved accolade – in seven years of business the company has cultivated a customer base of more than 300,000, and annual sales of more than £10 million.
Blackcircles.com has given Liverpool/Manchester based PR agency Paver Smith responsibility for the company’s public relations programme. Following the appointment, managing director Michael Welch commented that “we’re delighted to bring Paver Smith onboard and look forward to developing a successful working relationship.”
Online tyre retailer Blackcircles has appointed Unipart Automotive as its preferred parts supplier. As part of the new partnership it will promote the Unipart brand and product range to its network enabling the garages to tap into better pricing on parts which can be passed on to customers. Revenue is reportedly up 40 per cent this year while visitors to its website are said to have increased by 55 per cent.
The partnership agreement also has benefits in terms of customer confidence, a key area for online businesses. Under the new deal, Unipart will conduct a 10-point quality check, on behalf of Blackcircles.com, for all garages within the network, which will provide a mark of excellence designed to create a new consumer confidence and encourage greater use of independent garages.
Mike Welch, managing director of Blackcircles.com, said: “In Unipart we are partnering with a proven and trusted name that will enable us to support our garage relationships across the UK at a crucial time for the industry. Block Exemption creates an excellent opportunity that will ultimately benefit consumers. We are confident that this new deal will increase consumer confidence and highlight the many benefits of using local independent garages to the general public whilst educating people about Block Exemption.”
Unipart Automotive marketing director, Wendy Williamson, commented: “By sourcing our service products, the garages can be more confident about the quality they are offering their customers. This will increase customer satisfaction, generating higher sales for the garages involved.”
According to the company, Blackcircles.com has developed the largest network of fitting outlets in the UK during the course of the last six years and is currently recruiting more garages to join its UK network.
In recent years the online tyre market has swollen in size (as observed in other retailer sectors). Whilst the proportion of the total market controlled by this sector remains limited, the fact that the number of different e-tail platforms is continually proliferating means online sales could already account for as much as 3 per cent of the European replacement market. With this in mind, knowing more about how these businesses operate is of interest to everyone in the tyre trade.
The latest insight is that the average tyre offered for sale online costs consumers around £69.14, meaning the myth that ‘virtual’ margins are too thin to make business sense could be evaporating. However, the most commonly offered tyre online is characterised as a mid-range brand costing around £60. It seems making money online is all a question of business model.
When online tyre retailer Blackcircles.com launched its new Meinreifen.de website for German consumers this month, you could be forgiven for interpreting the move as a strategically aggressive act. Hannover-based Delticom AG has been selling tyres online in Germany (and 29 other countries) for years and if its latest financial results are anything to go by, they have been making a rather good job of it. However, Tyres & Accessories has learnt that Blackcircles has been researching a possible entry into the German market for the last three years. So, could we be witnessing the start of an online tyre war?
Blackcircles.com’s rapid success, gained through adapting dotcom technology to suit the tyre business, is well documented. According to Plimsoll’s 2007 analysis, the online tyre enterprise is the 32nd fastest growing company in the UK tyre business and blew away industry sales averages by posting sales growth of 80 per cent. So what’s the secret? The ever-increasing number of “fitting stations” listed as Blackcircles franchisees is one reason for the business’ rapid growth, but the company’s use of conventional media strategies appears to be another way it has kept traffic coming.
As Blackcircles prepares to sign-up its 300th franchise garage, the company has also launched a service designed to give consumers instant access to mechanics across the UK. The move follows the launch of www.mechanic-torque.co.uk in which consumers can post queries about their car and receive an expert answer from a Blackcircles franchise mechanic. Since launching in early 2006, the Blackcircles franchise network has spread across the UK. The franchise arrangement sees local independent garages retain their identity, but gain access to Blackcircles’ stock checking and ordering systems. Blackcircles plans to increase the number of franchises to 500 by December and 800 within a year.
Innovative tyre retailer Blackcircles.com has announced two new additions to its executive team as it prepares for another year of exciting growth. Launched in 2001 by managing director Mike Welch (28), the online tyre retailer has set a new quality standard for the tyre industry and strong sales in 2006 has seen it create the two new posts of commercial director and head of finance.
Blackcircles has secured its first franchise outlet in Edinburgh. Seafield Coachworks’ boss Bill Neish said he is so impressed with the business that he has agreed to use his industry contacts to help the Peebles-based company expand its new franchise format across the UK.
Blackcircles.com is aiming to turn 700 independent garages across the UK into franchisees. And what’s more, managing director, Mike Welch, has a five-year plan to capture 10 per cent of the market and plans to enter Europe in 2006.
Blackcircles.com is something of dotcom success story. Founded in 2001 when Mr Welch was 23, the company currently operates a network of 987 independent garages serving consumers from “Thurso to Truro.” Next the 27-year-old managing director is aiming to capitalise on this position by turning 700 of the garages into branded franchisees, making local independent garages into outlets linked to Blackcircles’ ordering and stock checking systems.
Whether you like it or not, the world is turning more and more into a technological marketplace. And all aspects of business are being affected, including the tyre trade. Here Tyres & Accessories looks at two of the Internet’s best-known names, and asks how their businesses might affect yours.
According to the Office of National Statistics, by the end of 2004, 52 per cent of households in the UK had access to the Internet at home. And by the end of 2005, 99.6 per cent of the UK will have access to broadband if they want it. Furthermore, the Internet was the fastest growing retail sector last year, attracting one in four shoppers.