No matter whom you talk with these days, the message is the same: Tire demand is softening.
Some blame inflation. With food prices at an all-time high — the price of eggs alone is up 60% in the last year — the choice between feeding your family or replacing a set of tires isn't much of a choice.
With pundits warning of an impending recession, companies cutting staff and air travel returning to pre-pandemic levels, the tire-buying frenzy of 2021 has cooled to a slow — maybe steady — burn. Those factors, however, are fleeting. Today's bear market could turn into the bull in a matter of months.
One factor that presumably has affected tire sales, however, seems to be here to stay: The growing remote workforce.
When the World Health Organization first declared a pandemic in March 2020, non-essential businesses had to adapt. Employees and employers alike had to figure out how to do the work from home, as well as or better than before.
Three years later, many of those newly turned remote workers remain at home, still performing the same, great work they once did in an office. Their vehicles — and the tires they ride on — sit idle.
David Simons, president of Buffalo, N.Y.-based Exxpress Tire Delivery, said he believes the remote workforce — part of a "new normal" the company described to its dealer network during its recent conference — has had a major impact on tire sales. This is especially true when any hybrid worker can decide to stay home and work rather than drive in inclement weather.
"Tires are needed if you need to get to work," Simons told Tire Business. "If you have a choice of whether to go in or not, now tires become a discretionary purchase."
Without the requirement to be in an office physically, he said he believes tires become less important for repair.
"That's what's driving a lot of this (softening tire sales)," he said, pun intended.
It's a factor that frankly hadn't occurred to me — at least in the context of helping contribute to a slowdown in tire sales, and particularly winter tire sales, in the region Exxpress Tire serves.