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Despite concerns about seasonality and geographical limitations, trailer tires offer independent tire dealers a unique value. In most cases, these products deliver high-margins, and since few dealers carry these tires, there is often little competition.

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And costs associated with carrying these products are low – a dealer can cover a lot of the market with very few SKUs.

“It’s a huge market and there are some dealers, for whatever reason, that aren’t taking advantage of it,” says Doug Addis, territory sales manager at Maxxis International USA.

Trailer tire marketers Horizon Tire Inc. and Maxxis International USA report that the segment continues to grow slowly. Even during the uncertain times of the last decade, Maxxis’ trailer tire business was relatively unaffected primarily because of the vast applications in which trailer tires are used.tailer-tires

“We really didn’t see a downturn in trailer tires during the recession,” says Addis. “This segment has been strong and continues to be strong.”

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The most popular trailer tire applications include boat, car, ATV and motorcycle trailers; small utility trailers; farm and livestock equipment; campers, and landscaping equipment. An increase in fuel prices and tighter budgets did affect some applications, though, noted Maxxis. Boat trailers, for example, were down during the recession but now that the economy is on the upswing, the boat trailer segment is picking up again.

“If it’s a trailer, Maxxis’s position is that it should have a trailer tire on it,” said Addis. “Another tire may work in that application, but trailer tires are designed for that application.”

I Want It Now

Different from the conventional P-metric tires consumers mistakenly use, trailer tires feature components, tread designs, carrying capacities and speed ratings that are suitable for trailer applications.

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By offering just four to five trailer tire SKUs, an independent tire dealer can cover approximately 80% of the market, reports Horizon Tire.

“These tires are a ‘now’ proposition,” says Ed Fabrizio, vice president of sales for Horizon’s Southeast-Central divisions. “If you have it in stock, you will sell it.”

Maxxis’ Addis notes that with distributors now able to deliver products two to three times a day, dealers can work from inventory and restock on a daily basis.

Having the product in stock is important. The buy cycle for trailer tires is more immediate as end-users are usually traveling and have experienced some sort of incident that resulted in a flat.

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Both marketers agree that these products fill an immediate need, and Addis notes that drivers on the road facing an immediate need aren’t necessarily bargain shoppers. “These consumers just want to get back on the road, so they want to find a place that will do that for them.”

“Typically with trailers, tire failures don’t always happen at the lake,” says Addis. “They happen going to or from the lake. That can be a very frustrating experience for them to try to find a typical dealer along the highways and byways that stocks these tires.”

In order to reach these customers, dealers should focus their efforts on building awareness about their trail­er tire offerings.

“Independent tire dealers who service and sell this type of application need to make the general public know that they are involved in this segment more aggressively,” says Fabrizio.

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The fact that many tire dealers have not entered this market is a double-edged sword for those jumping in now. There is little competition but that means that potential consumers don’t know that a particular tire dealer now has product available. Advertising your trailer tire offerings is necessary.

“Dealers should incorporate the fact that they’re a full-line dealer, meaning that they carry passenger, light truck and trailer tires, in an advertisement,” says Addis.

Advertising should be focused on the spring, summer and fall months when trailers are most in use. Location also affects demand, sales and the seasonality of the product. And dealers should reach out to RV and camper dealers, boat yards, farm equipment suppliers and recreational equipment dealers to reach out to their customers.

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“Any region renown for its recreational activities or farming industry are examples of good markets,” says Fabrizio. “It’s generally a 10-month season in most areas – the market will pick up in March and doesn’t really slide until the end of November – and your end-user is someone who may be an active farmer or a horse owner, or a fishing, hunting or boating enthusiast, or a landscaper.

And because of the climate, trail­er tires are a year-round business for dealers in the Southern U.S. and Mexico.

Training Is Key

All this being said, dealers shoul­dn’t simply plan on stocking the products and taking advantage of situations that come up. It’s necessary to understand the end-user and the product itself.

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“These customers know that the only thing that will get them to their destination or prevent them from getting there is a tire,” says Addis. “That’s why they are very particular in wanting to be sure that they’re doing all the things that they should be doing to avoid any tire problems en route.”

In some ways, trailer tire consum­ers are different from a conventional tire customer. They can be more educated than a typical customer and look to dealers for help beyond the tire sale.

“Trailer tire customers, especially camper trailer customers, are very, very particular,” adds Addis. “They monitor tire heat and inflation, pay attention to overloading and will invest in a good, reliable spare. They’re over-the-top but they know the horror stories out there and want to protect against that happening to them.”

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For that reason, Horizon and Maxxis recommend working with distributors and manufacturers for training to support the product.

“Education is critical. It’s key to being in this market,” says Addis, adding that Maxxis supports its dealers and provides consumers with more information on its website, through flyers and training visits to dealerships. “Most dealers take the responsibility to become educated in order to make good recommendations and pass along good advice and information to their customers.”

Additionally, Fabrizio notes that dealers may wish to invest in more equipment to support their customers and improve the serviceability of the shop itself. “As far as equipment goes, mounting and balancing equipment is standard, but now there are better machines out there that can handle tires in certain of these applications.”

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Dealers should also consider carrying special trailer wheels to complement their trailer tire offerings.

Current Trends

As with the rest of the tire industry, larger and faster is quickly becoming the norm. Currently, 15- to 17-inch sizes and load ranges D and E are the most popular products.

Bias ply tires are down overall, with many consumers opting for radials. Fabrizio estimates that bias ply demand still exists in about 10% of the market.

Fabrizio noted that all-steel radial trailer tires have emerged as a popular segment. These tires offer a higher load rating for bigger trailers that carry hay, equipment or cattle. These tires are heavier, more stable and run with fewer failures, Fabrizio says, giving customers longer tire life and less failure havoc.

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Overall, independent tire dealers can take advantage of this market strategically by investing in education and training and by building awareness through advertising and promotion. While location and seasonality may affect the business, the trailer tire segment offers dealers additional sales during the mid-year months without costing a lot of money or shelf-space.

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