In some regards, tire dealers must feel as if they're under attack.
Online entities. Wholesale clubs. Car dealerships. Traditional brake specialists. Traditional shock and muffler specialists.
They are all vying for a larger share of the tire business.
It's similar to the theme of the HBO's medieval hit fantasy series Game of Thrones (GoT): Tire dealers continue to sit on the Iron Throne, ruling the tire industry, as all of these other kingdoms are calculating their next move, vying for a chance to become the future king.
While all of these businesses grew and prospered by selling other products, each sees opportunity for more success by selling tires. And lots of them.
It's enough to drive a king mad.
Word came last week that Monro Inc., the behemoth tire and auto service retail chain with nearly 1,200 company-operated stores and nearly 100 franchised locations, is doubling down on its strategy toward brand consolidation, store redesign, acquisitions, product mix and online sales.
Selling tires is a big part of that strategy, and it's easy to understand why: Its service stores — Monro Auto and CarX — each generate about $600,000 in annualized sales, while its tire stores generate about $1.2 million in sales.
And consider this: Monro recently expanded its footprint to the West Coast by acquiring 40 Certified Tire & Service Center stores and to Louisiana by acquiring 12 locations of Lafayette, La.-based Allied Discount Tire & Brake Inc.
Each location was rebranded as Tire Choice.
Perhaps this is even more telling: Monro not only is launching its own online tire-selling presence, it also expanded the scope of its partnership with Amazon.com.
Monro is offering tire installation services to Amazon customers at more than 800 Monro stores in 21 states. Eventually, plans call for Monro to expand the program to all locations, encompassing 30 states.
Monro President and CEO Brett Ponton told investors that roughly half of the customers that come from Amazon to Monro for tire installation are new customers.
"So it gives us a great opportunity, I think, to drive traffic and build a relationship with a consumer," Mr. Ponton said. "It allows us to not only convert that tire installation to other services when they are at the store, but also allows us to build a long-term relationship with them via our CRM platform going forward."
The program isn't exclusive to Amazon: Monro also offers tire installations for online retailers Tire Rack and SimpleTire.com.
"The economics — certainly we don't sell the tire as it relates to tire installation — but the installation revenue itself certainly is high margin given the high labor content and low material costs of installation as well as the opportunity for us to add on incremental high-margin sales when the consumers are at the stores," Mr. Ponton said.
What does this mean for tire dealers? Perhaps the takeaway is two-fold.
First, there is strength to be gained by collaborating with your enemy, much like the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros did during its battle against the White Walkers in GoT. Can your shop become a certified installer? And if so, can you turn those first-time customers into regulars?
Secondly, turmoil and disruption is the new norm. Keep in mind that the person sitting on the Iron Throne of the industry may not be the same two or five or 10 years down the road.
To paraphrase a line on GoT, remember this: "There is only one thing to say to adversity: Not today."