More than 4,000 NHS staff and emergency workers have gone to Halfords for free car and bike checks since the retailer started offering them in late March. The initiative was launched to help those carrying out essential work on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis get to and from work safely.
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.
Halfords is offering free MOTs at Halfords Autocentres with every interim, full or major service booked, to ensure “vehicles that still need to be on the road are safe to drive during this challenging period”, according to the company.
The ongoing effects of import tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and structural changes in the distribution chain have all affected the tyre business this year. As well as featuring the latest motorsport news and covering market developments in our regular features, this month’s Tyres & Accessories focuses on a number of key examples of changes in the marketplace in our Review of the Year feature. But one trend stands out above the others – virtualization. In short, increasing moves towards electric and autonomous vehicles (complete with their inherent sensorisation tendencies), coupled with changes in vehicle (and tyre) ownership models such as MaaS (Mobility as a Service) are driving changes in the tyre market that are resulting in the virtualizing of parts of the distribution chain.
The last few weeks have seen well-known automotive retailer and autocentre owner Halfords Group make a major move into the tyre retail space. Of course, this is nothing new, the company has been travelling towards tyre retail for about a decade. The last push of this scale was in February 2010 when the company bought Nationwide Autocentres for £73 million – a move that was laden with history of its own.
Halfords Group plc bought McConechy’s Tyre Service Limited, the sixth-largest tyre retail business in the UK, on 7 November 2019 for £8.5 million. This makes the newly-expanded Halfords Autocentres the second largest tyre retailer in the UK.
Halfords and Mobivia have forged a joint purchasing alliance relating to own-brand products. The idea is to offer “more effective joint product development and greater innovation in both companies’ motoring and cycling ranges”.
Almost half of drivers believe an MOT is a guarantee their car will be safe to drive for the next 12 months, according to a new study of 2000 drivers commissioned by Halfords Autocentres. The OnePoll study also found that 42 per cent shun servicing their vehicle and rely on the MOT as the only annual check. Londoners are the biggest culprits, with 65 per cent admitting the MOT is their car’s only annual check, compared to 30 per cent of Scots.
In recent years autocentres have been selling more tyres than ever. At the same time, specialist tyre retailers – such as those featured on our annual table, have moved towards additional servicing and mechanical repairs in order to increase sales. This is especially the case at the top of the table, amongst the largest tyre retail chains where as much as 45 per cent of annual turnover is now made up of non-tyre sales.
Halfords will extend its Mobile Expert service to London, following its pilot in the West Midlands, Manchester and Surrey. The retailer will place five new vans in London from 30 March, which it says will cover the capital. The service means that Halfords Mobile Expert vans will be available to nearly a third of UK households. The company added that it plans to roll out between 100 and 150 vans across the UK within the next two years.
Halfords Autocentres has expanded its apprenticeship scheme with a new five-year plan and a 2019 investment of more than £800,000. This includes both an Apprenticeship and Halfords Technical Training Academy programme. Halfords said the extension is a response to both the growing demand for hybrid and electric cars in the UK, and the country’s scarcity of automotive skills.
Halfords Autocentres have become the official sponsors of the StreetRepairs.co.uk website and #NationalPotholeDay 2017. The collaboration heralds a breakthrough in offering road users the ability to have the safety of their vehicles checked after hitting a pothole. Potholes are an increasing problem on Britain’s roads, causing damage to vehicles and presenting a potential safety hazard.
Halfords Autocentres has made its first staff appointment as a result of its recent partnership with the Dallaglio Foundation. Halfords Autocentres has hosted a series of employability events across its garages, inviting pupils from the Dallaglio Foundation to learn about the employment opportunities and skills available.
Halfords Autocentres aims to have one apprentice in every centre by 2017. Autocentre apprenticeships have an 80 per cent success rate for the completion of the three year scheme. The apprentices qualify with an NVQ Level 3 Standard combing learning with practical, on-the-job training.
Halfords has relaunched its “trade card”, giving trade professionals access to “the best prices on car maintenance tools and products”. The offers comes alongside the launch of a new trade only website, offering the trade exclusive deals and pricing – up to 50 per cent off in some cases.