AKRON-Tire dealers participating in TIRE BUSINESS' Rapid Response Fax Poll reported the third quarter held their smallest sales increases of 1996, compared with the year-earlier periods. Despite modest gains, however, only 22 percent of the respondents said the economic climate in their area was worse than a year ago.
Automotive service sales, which rose 6 to 8 percent in each of the first two quarters, crept up only 1.8 percent in the third.
Tire sales grew 2.2 percent in the June-September quarter, whereas fax poll respondents had reported gains of 3 to 5 percent during the previous two quarters.
Regionally, dealers in the Midwest and West noted gains of about 7 percent in automotive service sales. Southern dealers, however, reported a near-4-percent fall-off in auto service sales.
Retail prices across the country, which rose just over 0.5 percent during the second quarter, dipped 0.8 percent during the third. Costs of doing business again outpaced prices with a 2.4 percent hike.
Price dips in the West, and along the West Coast in particular, overcame slight price gains reported in the Midwestern and Southern states. Dealers in New England reported steady prices.
Dealers across the country again expressed optimism for the coming quarter. Seventy-nine percent thought tire sales would increase, and nearly as many-65 percent-expected auto service sales to rise, too.
Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said they believed retail prices will either increase or hold steady. Fifty-four percent, however, said costs also would increase during the quarter.