AKRON-Speed is essential in today's information age. That's why we created the TIRE BUSINESS Rapid Response Fax Poll-a network of about 50 dealers nationwide that are helping us gain an insight into replacement market activity. Using a computer-assisted fax machine, we will poll a cross section of dealers each quarter about business conditions in their areas. They have agreed to respond via fax within 24 hours.
Every three months, beginning with this issue, we will publish a Business Barometer, in which we examine the business trends across the country.
Responses to the first Business Barometer poll, indicated tire and service sales rose more than 5 percent during the fourth quarter of 1995, in an economic climate most dealers said was better than the year-ago period.
Margins were squeezed a bit, as dealers reported that retail prices dipped about 0.4 percent, despite an average 1.5-percent increase in their costs.
Looking ahead, about 95 percent of the respondents said they expect service sales to increase during this year's first quarter. About 80 percent expected the same with See Business, page 22
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regard to tire sales.
Most dealers expected operating costs to continue to rise. However, only 30 percent said they thought prices also will increase.
By region, dealers in the Midwest fared best in terms of sales increases. Tire sales jumped an average 10.4 percent, while service sales rose about 8 percent. Prices and costs rose slightly.
Bad winter weather helped East Coast dealers increase tire sales 4 percent, although service and retail prices seemed to dip.
``(The) first quarter is historically excellent after a harsh winter,'' one Massachusetts dealer added.
Dealers in the southern portion of the U.S. saw both sales and prices of tires and service increase just over 1 percent.
Service sales along the West Coast jumped 5.7 percent during the quarter, but dealers reported tire sales up by less than 1 percent. Prices in that region took the hardest shot, dropping 1.5 percent.