A coalition of trade associations (including the NTDA) and commercial organisations (including Halfords and Kwik Fit) has been formed to lobby the UK government to uphold “the rights of the independent aftermarket and consumers in the post-Brexit era.” The UK Alliance for the Freedom of Car Repair (AFCAR), which derives its name from the European group of the same name, will primarily lobby on the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulations (MV-BER), Vehicle Type Approval (including access to Repair & Maintenance Information) and Cybersecurity.
Following Halfords’ recent acquisitions of Universal Tyres and McConnechy’s before that, many have speculated regarding what the future holds for Lodge Tyres. Rumours aside, the short story is that Lodge Tyres had a good 2020 despite the obvious Covid-19-related adversity and is set for further growth in 2021. Tyres & Accessories met with Lodge Tyres managing director Andy Christmas and commercial director Martin O’Brien in order to get the latest details straight from Lodge Tyres’ management.
Halfords has entered the B2B software market by making American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) the first customer of Halfords’ Avayler proprietary software which streamlines “service delivery for companies that operate in multiple locations.” According to Halfords, the Avayler platform will underpin ATD’s operations, supplying tyres to 80,000 garages across the US. ATD will also be the exclusive provider of the Avayler Mobile platform to the North American automotive market. ATD is one of the largest independent suppliers of tyres in the US replacement market and the part owner of Tirebuyer.com (which was established by blackcircles.com founder Mike Welch). No price details associated with the sale of the Avayler software system to ATD have yet been disclosed.
The Halfords Group reported a strong set of full-year 2021 that saw the company generate total sales of 1,292.5 million in 2021, up 13.1 per cent compared with the 2020 financial year (2020: 1,155.1 million). The financial report, which was published on 17 June 2021, shows that by all measures pre-tax profits skyrocketed. Indeed, Halfords Group reported profit before tax after the impact of IFRS 16 of £64.5 million, which amounts to a headline-grabbing increase of 184.1 per cent compared with the previous year.
Halfords Autocentres accounted for an increasing proportion of the group’s overall sales figures, reporting 2021 sales of £252.5 million, up 31.6 per cent compared with 2020’s £194.1 million.
We’ve all seen the meme. Mechanic hourly rate: Standard – £100; £175 if you watch; and £200 if you worked on it first! Nevertheless, with 40 per cent of people spending more time in their garage during lockdown than before, Halfords is running a “best home garage” competition. The prize? £5000 cash and a “Halfords Ultimate Garage Bundle”.
Halfords’ recent acquisition of Universal Tyres follows the acquisition of McConnechy’s Tyre Service Ltd for £8.5 million and Tyres on the Drive for £746,000 back in November 2019. The combination of the McConnechy’s and Universal purchases means Halfords now owns two of the three founding firms of ULM Services Ltd, a fleet servicing business that Universal establishing in partnership with McConnechy’s and Lodge tyres back in 2017. At the same time, Universal runs its own tyre wholesale business. So, what does the latest acquisition mean for the Universal Tyre Wholesale operation? And how was McConnechy’s commercial business folded into Halfords? For that matter, how will the businesses be integrated in general? And what does this all mean for ULM?
Halfords has extended its reach into the UK tyre retail space with the acquisition of Universal Tyre and Autocentres for £15 million. Kent-based Universal has 20 garages and 89 commercial vans operating in the South East and on the east coast of the UK. Universal also operates 1 warehouse/head office and from 5 other sites. The company specialises in the supply and fit of tyres for a wide range of vehicles, from cars to commercial and agricultural vehicles. Universal branches also offer general car maintenance and repairs such as brakes, servicing and MOT.
With the clocks going back soon, it’s time for workshops to think of the products that will sell most at this time. Wiper blades are one such candidate. Following the long, bright summer, UV rays from the sun could have damaged blade rubber, so these need to be checked to ensure they’re in optimum condition. Indeed, a poll commissioned by Halfords found that 6.5 million cars are being driven by motorists with faulty wiper blades.
McConechys Tyre Service, which was bought by Halfords last year, is migrating its website to the Halfords.com portal. At the same time as making the website migration announcement, company representatives revealed: “All of the [49 form McConechy’s] garages have been trained to provide the same services that would be expected at a Halfords Autocentre, including both on demand and bookable services.
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.
As the UK increasingly adopts social distancing measures, tyre retailers are reporting increased demand for mobile tyre fitting services. For example, Kwik Fit is introducing social distancing measures for its mobile fleet operators. The company reports that it has seen a 15 per cent increase in enquiries for appointments for tyre fitting at customers’ homes, the majority of which are said to be due to customers self-isolating after being impacted by the government’s latest guidance on the coronavirus. And Halfords has introduced a ‘contactless’ home fitting service.
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.