AKRON-Are tire dealers in Canada losing market share? ``Yes,'' according to a chart detailing market share by channels of distribution. It was obtained from a Canadian tire maker and published in a recent issue of The Tracker, the Western Canadian Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association's newsletter, and is scheduled for publication in at least one other Canadian association newsletter.
Independent tire dealers, the statistics suggest, may have lost as much as 7 percent of the nationwide market last year.
But those numbers should be viewed with caution, noted the tire manufacturer who originally contracted out the consumer survey. That manufacturer requested anonymity, stating the survey was for internal use only.
Channels of distribution are more difficult to monitor in Canada than in the U.S., according to tire association executives who said they have not seen statistics that could be compared with those in The Tracker.
The Rubber Association of Canada said it does not track market share by retail channels.
Based on The Tracker's numbers, the market share of ``tire stores and dealers'' slipped from 41 to 34 percent last year.
Those losses came while mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs and car dealers each made slight market share gains.
But the largest gain, 4 percent, came from ``local garages''-defined in The Tracker as ``independent garages and service outlets that do not sell gas and are not associated with a major chain.''
However, consumers who participated in the survey might not have been able to distinguish between what the industry calls a ``local garage'' and a ``tire dealership,'' an executive with the tire manufacturer said.
``It's very difficult for a consumer to know the difference between where he gets his tires,...at a local dealer or a local garage,'' he said.
Even O.K. Tire Stores Inc. President and General Manger Don Blythe, author of The Tracker article, said the market share numbers might be deceptive.
``I really think (conditions are) better. I don't think the independent dealer has lost the amount (of market share) they say they lost,'' he said, noting most local garages make their own purchases through tire dealers.
Regardless of what the actual market share numbers are, however, executives with tire dealer organizations in Canada agreed independent dealers are having trouble holding their own against other channels of distribution.
``(The statistics) are a dime a dozen, but I hope it's enough to scare...some of our members,'' said Bob Arthurs, executive director of the Ontario Tire Dealers Association.
Canadian shoppers, like U.S. consumers, are buying tires more often based on price than on benefits, according to Frank Connor, executive director of the Atlantic Tire Dealers Association.
``Certain areas are more economically depressed,'' he said. ``People are looking for the cheaper tire.''
``There's no question (the competition) is there. It's always been there,'' he added.