'Snow joke: Northwest Tire's winter tire sales are `great'
BISMARCK, N.D.-Snow tire sales have been great the past couple of years at Northwest Tire Inc., according to Northwest Tire President Tony Vetter.
While Mr. Vetter did not give exact figures, he did say snow tire sales were up maybe 10 percent in 2003 over 2002.
``We sold more tires this year, but we also extended our territories,'' Mr. Vetter said, noting Bismarck-based Northwest Tire covers the Dakotas, parts of Wisconsin and Montana, and ``a little bit of Iowa.''
The dealership does retail, wholesale and commercial business. It operates eight retail stores-two in Bismarck plus outlets in Bowman, Dickinson, Minot, Jamestown and Mandan, N.D.-as well as three wholesale locations, in Fargo and Dickinson, N.D., and in Minneapolis, and one retread shop.
The reason for the sales increase was simple, according to Mr. Vetter: ``Snow tires sell in relation to the amount of snow we get, and this year we got more snow than last year. Motorists found out that regular and all-season tires really don't have the traction they need in snow. Also, there are new types of snow tires. The Toyo and Nokian models we sell have tremendous traction, and when you spend $40,000 on a car, it's worth it to have that protection.''
Although the Toyo and Nokian snow tires sell very well, Mr. Vetter said, Northwest's biggest sellers in that market are the lower-cost Delta and National private brands. ``The main factor is price,'' he said.
Despite the strong sales this year, Northwest probably won't order any more tires for next winter than it did for last, Mr. Vetter said. The weather forecast is the major factor: ``It snowed heavily two years in a row, so that means it probably won't snow that much next winter. People don't realize this, but North Dakota isn't a big snow state. We don't get nearly as much snow as South Dakota, Minnesota or even Iowa.
``We gamble each year, and sometimes we lose,'' he added. ``Our dealers can return the tires to us, but we can't return them to the manufacturers.''
Northwest Tire must order its snow tires by March or April, according to Mr. Vetter. ``I think we already ordered our Nokian snow tires for next year,'' he said March 4. Northwest Tire's wholesaler suppliers do not offer winter tires on consignment, he added.
The company carries Bridgestone, Firestone, Yokohama, Bandag retreads, Long March, Alpha, Akuret and Titan as well as Delta, National, Toyo and Nokian brands. In addition to tire fitment, rotation and wheel balancing, the dealership offers a variety of vehicle services including air-conditioning service, brakes, cooling system service, engine analysis, computerized alignments, lube/oil services, transmission maintenance, and other underhood and undercar work.
Ordering snow tires always a gamble for Maynard & Lesieur
NASHUA, N.H.-Winter tire sales at Maynard & Lesieur Inc. were even with a year ago as heavy snows during December didn't carry over to January and February.
Larry Lesieur, president of the Nashua-based wholesaler, said the company sold almost 6,600 winter passenger tire units, with Nokian, Cooper and Semperit tires as its top three sellers at 5,900 units. He noted that the company's sales of those three brands rose from last year but sales in other brands were lagging, and Maynard & Lesieur will phase out its other winter tire brands as a result.
In light truck tires, Mr. Lesieur said the company sold a total of 1,550 units-1,150 Coopers and 400 Nokian.
Despite a relatively flat winter tire season, Mr. Lesieur said he doesn't think all-season radial technology is killing snow tire sales. But he does think the snow tire business either will stay the same or grow as the population grows.
``Up here in New England north of Boston, it's so hilly, and there's so many houses now built on hills that we still sell a lot of snows and a lot of studs,'' he said. ``You're not going to get up an icy hill on all-seasons.''
When he orders winter tires for the next season, Mr. Lesieur said he usually takes 70 percent of his total sales in a brand and then subtracts leftover inventory to arrive at how much to order in April and May.
``It's almost like gambling,'' Mr. Lesieur said. ``It's like going to Las Vegas. If you order right, you're a hero.
``But unfortunately, because you can't eat tires, what you're left with is what your mistakes are. In this case, we cut it down, but we still have 1,800 snows left, and those have to be stored for seven or eight months. It's a crapshoot sometimes.''