CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Tire shops around the U.S. are expecting the worst but hoping for the best.
Orders for citizens to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic have caused a reduction in foot traffic at retail tire shops around the country. Shop owners reported losses in revenue anywhere from 10% to 80% in March.
Those shop owners who have seen a slight reduction of revenue say they feel lucky but are bracing for a tough April.
While those dealers hit hardest are looking at all solutions to avoid layoffs.
"I know I won't be taking a paycheck anytime soon," said Gordon Leffler, CEO of Suburban Tire Auto Care Centers.
Based in Glendale, Ill., Suburban Tire operates five retail locations in the suburbs west of Chicago. The company employs 25.
"The first two weeks of March were just a bit off," Mr. Leffler said. "But the last two weeks of the month, revenue, car count and tire units eroded tremendously.
"April will be an unmitigated disaster."
When asked if the business was considering layoffs, Mr. Leffler answered, "Hard no."
"We trimmed everybody's hours by 37%, so everyone could put food on their tables," he said. "March was OK, but April looks like it's gonna be really rough to keep everybody working beyond 30 hours per week.
"My hope is that we can maintain a minimal acceptable standard until the end of June, and provide a paycheck for all staff members."
Gregory Mynaugh, president of United Tire & Service L.L.C., which operates 13 locations throughout Pennsylvania, said he expects business revenue may drop by as much as 60% from 2019.
“Our primary goal every week is to retain our team and make payroll first and foremost, which we have,” Mr. Mynaugh said. “No layoffs to date, although we have had some students that worked part-time while in a mechanical trade school (UTI) go back home since the recent orders by (Pa.) Gov. Tom Wolf.”
West coast hit hard early
Mark Hubbard, owner of Rick's Tire & Service, a single-outlet dealerships in Seattle, said revenue was down about 80%, and in late March, he thought of shutting down temporarily because no jobs were coming into his shop.
The business, though, recently posted on Facebook that the shop remained open and accepting customers. They also continue to service emergency vehicles for a nearby hospital.
Mr. Hubbard said his biggest worry was the effect the extended stay-at-home order would have on the economy.
"As soon as people figure out that they don't need to go into the office for work, that they can work from home, that they don't need to put those extra miles on their cars ... traffic will be down, auto repair will be down, tire sales will be down. … It's going to get really ugly," he said.
At Goodguys Tires & Auto Repair in Fresno, Calif., owner Scott Shubin described the situation as "surreal." He said the business' eight locations have seen a drop in foot traffic, but regular customers have been catching up on vehicle maintenance.
"So, we've seen a larger drop in tire sales as opposed to service and repairs," he said.
"We have not had to lay anyone off. We have adjusted work schedules with our team, and they understand this is temporary until this passes."
Mountain View Tire & Service Inc., which operates 31 locations throughout the greater Los Angeles metro area, saw revenue slip around 50% the last week of March. The company has had to lay off 53 workers so far, and Chris Mitsos, vice president, said there likely will be more, but they continue to offer service across their locations.