"At the beginning of the pandemic, stock issues weren't necessarily an issue for us," said Nick Fox, co-owner of Point S J&J Tire & Auto Service and Point S Capital City Tire & Auto Service in Helena, Mont. "But we really started to see it this year. Even though a lot of factories have opened back up, they're so far behind on filling back orders, it's hard to get stock."
Light truck tire sales make up about 50% of sales at J&J, which offers Goodyear, Hankook, Nokian and Toyo, among other brands.
Mr. Fox said they're able to find options in just about every size, but it might not be a brand they're pushing this year or it might come with shrinking margins.
They've also relied more on wholesalers than in years past, "but I know there are wholesalers running into problems where the tires are supposed to show up and they don't."
For the most part, Mr. Fox said, customers are willing to substitute brands and styles.
But some customers are more particular, and they're willing to wait. And wait. And wait.
"That's the crazy part," Mr. Fox said. "People are understanding, but I don't think they quite understand the notion that we don't know when the tires will show up. And that's when the frustration happens. They'll call and ask, and I'll be like, 'Hey, I ordered the tires. I'll check again for you, but I still have no idea. They're on order.'"
Light truck sales make up about 65-75% of Lakeway's business — "This is a big pickup area, yes-sir," he said — and Mr. Pugh sells tires from "all over the spectrum," from mud grips to all-terrain to more standard highway tires. Lakeway also stocks a lot of brands, including Michelin, Goodyear and Continental.
While Mr. Pugh prefers to sell tires he's familiar with, he's had to be more flexible in recent months.
"I've ordered tires that just popped up on our radar and it might be totally out of character to stock that tire, but we'll buy it," he said. "We buy it and sell it within a week.
"This (shortage) is happening everywhere. I've got a good friend who runs a supply business for water treatment, where you have PVC pipes and all that. He can't get glue. I have a Milwaukee half-inch impact wrench, but I can't find batteries. From chicken wings to baby diapers to PVC pipes, it's everywhere."