What types of product shortages have you experienced?
Some of the tire lines coming from overseas that are sitting in the shipping lanes, that's been a challenge. I think some manufacturers have done a better job than others in regards to recovery from when they shut down to when they started back up. Certainly the channels overseas, those have been a challenge I think for everybody.
We've had more dialogue, trying to procure fitments. Where maybe you'd be interacting with your direct manufacturer on a monthly basis or bimonthly basis, now it's almost like a weekly basis. So there's more conversations. Sometimes you feel like the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But things are so different. It's not business as usual yet.
Are there any pandemic-related changes you made to your stores that you plan to keep going forward?
Well, the plexiglass shields at the front counters, I'm going to leave those up. There was a little bit of a challenge to install those and make it look good and be professional. I don't know what's going to happen in the fall, if we're going to have a resurgence, who knows? I'd rather just leave those up until it's safe to take them down.
When the health orders were rescinded, we followed what those orders said. If a customers says, 'Hey, can you wear your mask when you pull my car in?' Well, yes, we'll do that. I think everybody is OK with that after having to wear the damn things for a year.
Otherwise, that's probably the only thing we're going to maintain right now.
Did you offer any contactless services for your customers?
Yes, we had 24-hour key-drop service where the customer could drop their vehicle off and put a key envelope through the door. You could purchase tires online, you could set up appointments online.
We also have a video presentation service that we provide for our customers, Tech View, and basically you see what we see. We send you a video in a text or email format so we can show you what's good and what's bad on your car. That's been very, very successful for us. It does a nice job of giving complete transparency to the customer.
We also tried to provide online and mobile appointments and online and mobile tire purchasing so customers can select their tires, pay for it, drop off the car through a key drop and basically we could put the keys under their visor if they wanted and then lock the car and we'd never see them. There were some that did that, but I do think there were a fair amount that just decided, 'I'm not going to do anything right now.' So hopefully we'll start seeing those people back.
What is your biggest challenge for the second half of the year?
I would say staffing. If you don't hear that from everyone you talk to, I'd be very surprised. The additional unemployment benefits which are due to end at the end of this month for Ohio, that will be a big help to us.
What are you doing to attract job applicants?
We are doing everything within reason, that would be the best way to say that. There is a lot of very creative recruitment going on. But we're trying to stay committed to not going off the reservation with what we need to do to recruit. We are doing a lot of digital recruiting. It is definitely one of the main things we're focusing on.
How did your 2020 sales compare with 2019?
Definitely down. May, when the health orders were put in place to have a stay-at-home order, we, as an essential business, did not have to go through that. But our ODOT reported that cars on the road were down 50%. You just think that's half of your business that's not coming in the door. So the 2019 to 2020 comparisons were definitely down.
What do you expect for this year?
I expect we will be significantly up over 2020. If I look at 2019, it was a solid year for us. I would hope to get back to those levels in 2019, especially through the remainder of the year.
What trends are you seeing in the market?
The manufacturers keep raising prices on their tires, that is certainly a trend. I don't know where that is going to end, and I don't know how long the customers are going to feel like they can absorb that increase. Certainly that has been an obvious trend.
The fulfillment of certain components, obviously the car manufacturers with the chip shortage, that's a challenge impacting more of the OE and manufacturing. I don't know when the end of that will be. … That doesn't necessarily impact us, but it is a disruption to the automotive market.
Customers have less choices right now in regards to new vehicle purchases so they may choose to put some more repairs into their current vehicles. So that could benefit us.