Buying tires for your car is one of those things that A); and B) with few exceptions, hasn't really benefited from the kinds of technology that other types of shopping have. Sure, TireRack is great for shopping and buying tires online, but unless you want to order wheels too, you're still on the hook to go to the tire shop and get that rubber installed.
A company called Tirescanner wants to change all that by bundling home delivery and home installation of into one service and then make it available nationwide. If that sounds awesome and convenient, it is.
Now, to be totally clear, other smaller outfits do at-home tire installation, but they're generally more localized or geared toward servicing businesses, so it's not a guarantee that you'd have someone in your area. Tirescanner will pair its online presence with a network of brick-and-mortar stores.
It's not unlike the online florist model where you may buy through 1-800-Flowers, but they contract out to an independent local florist that puts together your bouquet. This is good for the brick-and-mortar store because they're getting business funneled to them directly, and it's good for the online retailer (in this case, Tirescanner) because it doesn't have to spend money building out infrastructure.
Now, the downside to this whole model is that, because each of the tire shops is independently owned, customers could receive wildly different experiences from location to location. It's going to be up to Tirescanner to figure out how to homogenize the experience across its proposed 3,500 partner stores.
Roadshow spoke to company founder Mike Welch to find out how it plans to deal with that problem, particularly one as large a geographical scale as the US, and basically, it comes down to Tirescanner being selective about the independent shops with which it chooses to work.
"We're going into a market and looking at working with the very best independent tire shops," said Welch. "We're able to do that because our platform gives us leverage to do business with large national fleets, something that an independent guy with three tire vans couldn't hope to do on his own."
Tirescanner.com was founded in 2019 by Welch, who had previously started a European tire retailer called BlackCircles.com. That site was bought out by Michelin for $100 million. Not bad for a company that had a name that could be mistaken for a weird prog-metal band, so we assume Welch and co. have worked the kinks out of the online tire sales model.
As of now, Tirescanner.com has approximately 100 service vans operating with its branding -- though each van is owned independently by the tire shop -- and the company is servicing around 38 states, with plans to expand that fleet to 500 vans by the end of 2021.
What we're most interested in seeing is whether or not Tirescanner's plan to disrupt the tire sales industry will work and if so, will it spur other nationwide chains like Discount Tire or even Costco into adopting a more hands-on, customer-focused model. Time's going to tell.