Two things that could hinder the uptick in sales for dealerships are shortages — both in product and employees.
Tire dealerships have been dealing with low fill rates on their orders due to temporary factory closures last spring and bottlenecks at the U.S. ports.
"We did bring in extra inventory to try and combat any supply issues that we foresaw coming, and I am glad that we did," Mr. Duckworth said. "We definitely saw shortages in select sizes, fill rates have been at an all time low, and the tariffs and price increases have disrupted the supply chain as well.
"We saw major shortages in TBR as well, and with the increased freight costs and workforce shortages, we haven't seem much relief in Q2 and anticipate the same in Q3. Luckily, we anticipated all this and adapted and brought in different lines and increased our min/max levels on our 'A' movers to ensure we had plenty of tires to make it through 2021."
Dunn Tire's Mr. Clark said his dealership, which also distributes to other retail dealers, has experienced shortages in some tire sizes and brands. He said he expects the shortages will continue throughout the summer.
"I am a little concerned that the factory shutdowns that happened almost a year ago at this point, those supply gaps are starting to catch up because our demand has been very steady, and I know that's true for a lot of dealers in the country," Mr. Clark said.
"Our demand has been pretty strong this year. We didn't see a big taper-off in demand in the first place," he said. "We had about six weeks during COVID where our demand was very significantly impacted but, outside of those six weeks, we've been pretty normal, actually, in volume. So those supply shortages when the different factories and production had to stop for days and weeks at a time, those are starting to catch up."
Mr. Chandler at ATD said the distributor has been in constant communication with every level of its supply chain.
"We've been working with manufacturers using our data and analytics to give them a good view of what our needs will be and have shared our purchase forecasts with them so they can plan their production properly," he said. "We've also been working with our ocean carriers of our imported products to facilitate container availability and secure space on ships."
GB Auto service shops have been dealing with supply issues for months — in all segments, according to CEO Mr. Kneller.
"With raw material on the rise, as well as logistics, even getting space on a vessel for imported tires has become very challenging," he said. "We have strong allies that were not impacted with import duties and although freight charges have increased, we are still very competitive."
Shortages in job applicants are also a problem for many businesses. There has been a long-standing shortage of automotive technicians in the industry, but some dealerships, including Dunn Tire, have had a hard time filling all types of retail positions this past year.
Mr. Clark said the staffing shortage is "significantly worse" than before the pandemic.
"It's been a struggle and I suspect it's going to continue until September when some of the (unemployment) benefit packages might start expiring. I think that will be the first time we'll have a legitimate chance of building back up some of the workforce that we need," Mr. Clark said.
Many business blame the extra federal unemployment benefits granted to those who were laid off during the pandemic, which some claim provide more income than a minimum wage job.
Tire Outlet's Mr. Duckworth said because of this, it is becoming harder to find skilled labor.
"We are forced to hire new 'green' help and train from within which takes a ton of time and effort," he said.
Jacksonville, Fla.-based Tire Outlet employs around 100.
"When opening new locations, we have to have a certain amount of staff that is not new to the industry to make an excellent first impression, and it is a very hard environment right now to find good experienced help."