Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of a brand that launched an entire automotive sector and today is familiar to every motorist up and down the land. On 16 April 1971 in McDonald Road, Edinburgh, the first ever Kwik Fit centre opened its garage doors to motorists, offering the new concept of ‘fast fit’ services, replacing components while drivers waited.
The year 2021 is the Golden Jubilee of Point S, the multi-national tyre and car maintenance group and, to mark this milestone, the company takes a look back at 50 successful years – and a look forward too. Back in 1971, the market for tyres, car accessories and repairs was very different from what it is now, with motorists’ choice of brands limited to what the local garage had in stock at the time. Things began to change when 50 French independent garage owners came together with the aim of offering new and higher standards of service, a better choice of products and competitive prices. And so, Point S was born.
Phil May, owner of Strood based RM Tyres, passed the million-pound milestone at the end of February, the peak of 12 months during which his company has seen an unprecedented increase in online sales. For all of the tyre sales processed by RM Tyres through TyreClick, 28 per cent have come in the past 12 months, an indication of the surge in consumers opting to buy their tyres online.
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.
Motorcycle and specialist tyre distributor Bickers will launch a new Click & Collect website on 10 March. The company said it has developed the site to help its motorcycle tyre customers gain online sales. It will promote Click & Collect to consumers as a way to drive footfall to dealers’ shops. Bickers wants to develop its Click & Collect Partner network with the new site too. It says the new site will help participating partners to increase profits, promote growth opportunities, to network and upsell additional items. Backing its new site, Bickers adds that Office for National Statistics data shows retail online purchases have increased by 42 per cent in 2020 over 2019. This big jump is an effect of national and regional lockdowns to combat the pandemic, but also follows the long-term retail trend towards online purchases.
Aberdeenshire-based Turriff Tyres has been given the Michelin stamp of approval, after becoming the first new dealer of 2021 to join the Michelin Quality Centre network. The family-owned business has a well-established reputation in the north of Scotland as a market leader for high performance tyres.
Tyre retailer and car maintenance brand Point S is launching a new version of its exclusive brand summer tyre. It says the tyre offers better efficiency, safety and longevity. The company is keeping the branding of its house brand tyre line simple; the range is branded “Point S Tyres” and will include Summer, Winter and 4 Seasons patterns. The new Point S Tyres Summer replaces its Summerstar 3+. The company says it invested in research and development to achieve a range of performance improvements, including 7 per cent better rolling resistance, 5 per cent longer mileage, and 3 per cent shorter wet braking distances. The full Point S Tyres Summer range is rated B for wet grip in the European tyre label. The tyre will be distributed in the European, African and Asian markets.
2020 provided a turbulent 12 months for the humble MOT. At the start of the year, the centralised testing conducted on the island of Ireland was thrown into disarray after faulty vehicle lifts were found on both sides of the border. It also raised questions about the wisdom of centralised approach in comparison of the de-centralised model used across Great Britain. Of course, all this took place while Covid-19 was still a Far Eastern problem. And yet, before the first quarter was out, national lockdowns had resulted in the deployment a six-month extension of the MOT renewal date, which had the knock-on effect of causing an MOT boom in the last quarter of 2020. The last cars to make use of the extension had their testing date deferred to the end of January 2021, so that complex chapter in the history of the MOT is now over. It also means that we have a chance to learn what happened. At the same time, the latest full-year 2019/2020 DVSA vehicle testing data has now been released, so we can also learn more about how last year’s projections compared with the end results in the months preceding the pandemic and what this might mean in terms of tyre demand.
The effects of the coronavirus and Brexit have led to an increasingly severe shipping bottleneck. The inevitable result of all of these factors is price increases. Tyres & Accessories spoke with Micheldever Tyre Services (MTS) wholesale director Graham Mitchell in order to find out more about what this means for the tyre retail sector.
Getting right to the point, are prices going to go up in 2021? “Undoubtedly,” was Mitchell’s immediate and definite response, with the wholesale director pointing to the three main factors behind the current and forthcoming price hikes as well as the different variables associated with each: “Containerised cost of product coming out of the far east…that’s not doubled, that’s quadrupled…a significant on-cost not to be underplayed…and then you’ve got a currency element that’s forcing manufacturing costs up as well.” The good news is that wholesale sources are confident that the containerised element is temporary, but the same cannot be said about other factors.
The European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) published its members’ sales for the year 2020 as well as the last quarter of 2020, reporting that Covid 19 “strong affected” the market. The Original Equipment (OE) segments were said to have been “most strongly affected”, recording reductions of -23 per cent in the consumer tyre business and -18 per cent in truck tyres. That much is logical in light of the widespread closure of vehicle manufacturing under pandemic-related lockdown conditions across Europe during 2020.
One of the most pronounced effects of the pandemic on the tyre retail business has been the uptick in online and mobile tyre business. RubberHub, a Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) project originating in Canada, launched its beta product in 2019 and went fully goes fully live this month (February 2020), with followers and test users already hailing from around Canada, the USA and the UK. Tyres & Accessories found out more from RubberHub Inc. president and founder, David Mulensteen.
Marko Ibrahim is the new president of Bridgestone Retail Operations (BSRO), the Bridgestone Americas subsidiary responsible for operating a network of more than 2,200 tyre and vehicle service centres across the United States of America. He succeeds Joe Venezia, who led the organisation since 2017 and has stepped down to pursue a leadership role outside of Bridgestone.
Lockdown has spurred many companies on to greater creativity in how they market and sell their products, and ZC Rubber is no exception. The tyre maker has launched virtual showrooms for its Westlake, Goodride and Arisun brands, giving visitors a 360-degree experience and access to more than 50 tyre products.
TecAlliance has added Instant Data Processing (IDP) in order to update TecDoc data in real time. According to the company, this increases flexibility and shortens the time to market for data suppliers and receivers. TecAlliance says IDP will be available “early in 2021”.