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AKRON—After years, even decades, of shying away from posting prices publicly, the nation's leading tire makers have started embracing MSRP—manufacturers' suggested retail prices—to meet consumers' growing expectations for such information in their digital shopping realm.

Bridgestone Americas Inc. recently started posting MSRP on its Bridgestone and Firestone websites, joining Goodyear, which started the practice last year.

Michelin North America Inc., citing consumer satisfaction, will start posting MSRP on Michelinman.com before year-end on all Michelin-brand passenger car and light truck tires for the U.S.

Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. is “reviewing the possibility of initiating an MSRP program,” but a spokesperson emphasized no final decisions have been made.

John Baratta, president, consumer tire replacement sales for Bridgestone Americas. revealed his company's decision at the International Tire Exhibition & Conference in Cleveland, and the company elaborated on its decision at its recent Bridgestone Affiliated Dealer meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

Posting MSRP helps consumers “understand product choices relative to one another,” according to Michael Fluck, Bridgestone America's director of brand and retail marketing, who said recent research indicates nearly nine of 10 consumers who visit the company's websites want pricing.

“About 26 percent of consumers visit one manufacturer site,” he said, “while 74 percent visit two or more sites. So we want to give them the information they need.”

The firm's policy does not appear to have carried over to the Firestone brand as yet. A recent check of www.fire-stonetire.com showed no MSRP information.

Michelin also cited consumer satisfaction as a key priority, and said feedback from recent consumer research indicates tire shoppers are looking for price.

“By adding the MSRP of our tires on our consumer-facing website, we are providing consumers more value when shopping for tires online,” the company said, while reminding dealers that MSRP is a suggested price only and retailers are free to set their own prices to best meet the needs of their consumers and business model.

Bridgestone's Mr. Fluck told those attending the Affiliated Dealer meeting that recent research shows that tire dealer websites are slightly more influential on purchase behavior than tire manufacturer sites. Considering that, he suggested dealers post pricing on their websites, if possible.

Other major tire makers had not responded at presstime to Tire Business inquiries about the MSRP matter.

How this development will affect retailers remains to be seen.

Dan Hennelly, chairman and CEO of Hennelly Tire & Auto Inc., which has Tire Choice stores in Florida, said he was taken aback initially when he heard about Bridgestone's MSRP decision at the Nashville Affiliated Dealer meeting. But after seeing the prices posted and comparing them with the pricing levels in Florida—which he termed the most competitive in the nation—his concerns were assuaged.

“If I were in a more rural market, though,” he told Tire Business, “I'd be much more concerned.”

Mr. Hennelly also said he's noticed customers becoming more price savvy, with an increasing number coming into his stores with price sheets from www.thetirechoice.com website.

What this means for his company, he said, is making sure the Tire Choice counter sales personnel are properly trained in determining customers' needs, “otherwise a weak salesman turns into an order taker.”



To reach this reporter: bdavis@crain.com; 330-865-6145.
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