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Pandemic spins growth for mobile tyre fitter
Record sales, strong outlook for Mobile Tyre Shop in wake of COVID-19 upheaval
23 Jun 2020
By NEIL DOWLING
AS MANY automotive industry retailers and suppliers have struggled since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Melbourne-based independent mobile tyre retailer and fitting service has experienced double-digit sales growth, increased its workforce and expanded its national vehicle fleet.
In an interview with GoAuto, Mobile Tyre Shop chief executive Travis Osborne said the coronavirus crisis – which has kept Australians at home, introduced strict social distancing measures and seen the online sales market boom – has acted as a strong stimulus for his fast-growing business, with May turning out to be its best month ever since starting up in 2012.
The company is also continuing to expand and is planning a move into New Zealand and other markets.
“COVID-19 has kept people at home. We ran a campaign at the start of the outbreak in Australia to advise people that we can visit their homes to replace tyres,” Mr Osborne said.
“Most people were aware you can buy tyres online, but what’s the point? You still have to take the tyres to a fitting station so you’re still driving around.
“When we started working from home, our productivity increased with increased calls to our call centre. We knew there were a lot of people at home doing business, shopping or looking for things. We also noticed that a lot of companies stopped advertising so we increased our advertising.
“We have had double-digit growth every month. Last month, it was our best-ever month.”
Mobile Tyre Shop was conceived about 10 years ago when Mr Osborne was in New York on holidays.
“I saw a guy jacking up a car and undoing the wheel nuts, so I thought he was stealing wheels,” he said. “But he removed the wheels, took them to a van parked alongside, changed the tyres and rolled out the wheels and bolted them back on.
“When he finished a guy walked out from the nearby barber shop, swiped his credit card and drove off. I thought, ‘Gee, that’s convenient.’
“I don’t have an automotive background. I was in marketing for companies like Gloria Jean’s Coffee so I thought the New York tyre business was normal.
“It was only later when I needed tyres for the family car that I realised no-one does that in Australia.”
Mr Osborne said the tyre market in Australia was worth $5.6 billion a year and “was open to commercialisation, especially using e-commerce”.
“But why would you buy tyres online if you still had to go to a place to get them fitted?” he said.
“So the concept came up pretty quickly to allow customers to buy their tyres online and have them fitted to wherever the car is – work, home or somewhere else.”
Mr Osborne made his first move into mobile tyre fitting part-time in 2012 as a trial with family and friends and at some motorsport events. He said that by 2017, the strength of the internet and expanded use by consumers as an e-commerce portal convinced him to start a business and he employed two people.
“Now we have 60 staff over the past three years, we have more than 7500 tyres on our website and we’re in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth and have 38 vans and on our way to 40 vans,” he said.
“The market is large. We think we could have 400 vans and still there would be room for growth.
“We also plan to move into New Zealand and other markets. We have invested heavily in our model and there’s a lot of people around the world looking at replicating that model.”
The business works by customers contacting Mobile Tyre Shop with the car registration or VIN, and from this the vehicle details will reveal the original tyre size and specifications.
“There are some cases where the tyre has been changed from original but in most cases the registration will give us all the details,” Mr Osborne said.
“We have accounts with all the major tyre brands and we put exactly the same margin on all our tyres so we don’t discriminate between tyre brands.”
Mr Osborne said a lot of business was done with fleet and rental companies but COVID-19 made dramatic changes to those clients as people stayed away from hire cars.
“While the B2B customers fell away, we had a dramatic increase in our e-commerce business from the general public,” he said.
“There’s an assumption that our product is more expensive because we come to your home and fit and balance the tyres, but we are about the same price as a bricks-and-mortar tyre business.
“The prices are about the same. We operate on the just-in-time process so we don’t hold any product. We don’t have warehouses and don’t hold stock.
“We can even do wheel alignments which means everything that a tyre store does, we can do with a mobile service.
“We operate much like a courier company where we have all the tyres available from suppliers and we collect the tyres at the same time they are fitted.
“That enables us to get the tyres fitted the same day. Order before 10am, we will fit the same day if the tyres are available.”
Mr Osborne said because of the booming online shopping culture in Australia, he sees growth potential here following that of the US and Europe.
“People are time poor. We see the future and want to be at the front end of the Australian growth,” he said.
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