NEW YORK—Tire sales at independent tire dealers continue to rebound as the economy reopens and many people head back to work.
New data from data research firm GfK Group shows a strong bounce in new tire sales in recent weeks as part of an upward trend in sales, said Neil Portnoy, managing director of GfK's point-of-sale tracking team for U.S. tire retail.
"The last two weeks we've seen a significant rebound," Portnoy said during a June 17 interview. "It's not back to 2019 sell out, but it's awfully close. Not only is our data saying that, but we've talked to a bunch of tire dealers in different parts of the country and we're getting the same story from them. Consumers are out there, and they are buying tires and it's good for the industry and it's good for the independent tire channel."
Portnoy shared data collected for the week ending June 5 to prove his point.
"Basically, what our data said was, year-to-date, the overall market was down only 15.8 percent," he said. "That's a pretty good rebound from the 40 to 45 percent it was back in April.
"For me, it's rebounded faster than I would have anticipated two or three months ago. But it has and I think that's due to the fact, let's remember, tire shops never really closed. They were deemed essential," Portnoy said.
While tire sales were off by almost half at one point earlier this year, customers were still "rolling into tire shops," he said.
The amount of business was lower, but stable, giving tire commerce a base to build upon as people started working again and becoming more comfortable venturing out.
Portnoy, while surprised that the tire business is coming back this quickly, believes there is difficulty accurately predicting what will happen in the near future.
"I don't think it's going to be a straight line back to normal for the rest of the year," he said. "That's just my personal opinion. There are too many variables."
On one hand, many people are looking to take driving vacations this year instead of flying. But others are looking to alternative means of transportation like bicycles when they make sense, Portnoy said. Unemployment rates also are a factor.
"It surprises me it came back this fast," he said. "I think it's good news, but I don't think we're out of the woods. It would not surprise me to see many weeks where we are going to see declines off of the place we are right now."
The potential for a second wave of COVID-19 later this year also could influence tire sales.
"I think it's a difficult game to forecast simply because there are so many more variables in play than ever before," Portnoy said.