NEW YORK — Industry research firm GfK Group said it is ramping up its tire sales reporting as a way to help the industry understand supply-demand trends better during the coronavirus outbreak.
The firm has created what it calls a Leader Panel, consisting of about 350 shops throughout the country, to track weekly sales and challenges during COVID-19.
This new weekly approach supplements the company's monthly point-of-sales reports that include more than 3,000 tire retailers in the U.S. GfK announced last September it planned to transition in 2020 to weekly regional data reporting.
"Everybody knows there is no playbook for what's going on right now," GfK's Neil Portnoy said, "and we feel that being able to provide insights to what is consumer demand is deeply important, not only to retailers, but also manufacturers to help them understand when we get to the bottom of the curve and when business might be picking up again so they can restart factories."
Mr. Portnoy is managing director of GfK's point-of-sale tracking team for U.S. tire retail.
GfK has provided sales data on the U.S. market since 2017 about 20 days after the close of each month. This new approach provides weekly sales data within a week from the Leader Panel, a representative subset of the larger POS reporting group compiled by GfK.
"The reason we created was that we felt the industry and our clients needed a faster and more-frequent measurement tool to understand what's happening at retail. What is consumer demand week-by-week?" Mr. Portnoy asked.
GfK has been working on weekly regional reports that are scheduled to launch later this year. When COVID-19 hit, the company disclosed it wanted to adopt that weekly approach using a smaller number of retailers to help provide information during the crisis.
Initial Leader Panel findings indicate sales for the week ended March 28 were down 45% from the previous year and down 19% from the week of March 15 to 21, GfK said.
Sales of light truck tires were faring better than other categories, however, with a smaller decrease than other categories. Ultra-high-performance and other passenger tire categories, GfK indicated, "are proving to be more discretionary purchases." Those categories were down 51% during the week of March 22 versus the previous year.
Creating the Leader Panel and weekly reporting helps fill in the gaps of information.
"There's just so much anecdotal information about what's happening out there," Mr. Portnoy told Tire Business from his Long Island, N.Y., home. "It's just really productive for GfK to be able to quantify what these declines look like on a week-by-week basis."
"I think the major thing about this leader panel is understanding when business starts to rebound and giving dealers or manufacturers as much lead time as possible to start ramping back up," he said.
Mr. Portnoy said he believes that having more detailed information about trends during the COVID-19 will help the industry when the next challenge comes along.
The company has been tracking and compiling tire sales data since 2016, but he said the industry could have benefited from having data from when many other previous problems occurred, such as 9/11 and/or the Great Recession.
"A lot of major things have happened over the last 25, 30 years," he said. "It would be nice if the tire business was able to look back and see what happened on consumer demand."
Whether the Leader Panel remains in place following the COVID-19 pandemic remains to be seen. The research firm will reassess the project and determine if there is a place in the market for such an approach with the upcoming regional weekly reporting.
Tire dealers who take part in GfK's reporting system have no daily reporting responsibilities. GfK gains access to sales through the dealerships' POS systems, compiles the numbers and creates reports based on aggregated information.
That information is then sold to manufacturers, allowing them to see market trends. GfK also shares the compiled information with participating dealers.