Amazon has enlisted Sears to mount and service the tires the online retail giant sells. This move could be just what Sears needed.
Amazon, the dominant online retailer on the planet, and some might say an indirect reason a lot of retailers like Sears are about fifteen minutes from bankruptcy, has reached an agreement to partner with one of America’s oldest and most loved brick and mortar retailers to install tires. Amazon will sell the tires, and Sears will mount, balance, install and then service those tires for you. This is a nationwide partnership.
A partnership that brings in revenue is always welcome, but for Sears, this move may be a lifesaver. Sears has recently had to close 24 of its auto centers as part of its downsizing to control costs. The retail icon has also been selling off its brands in order to stay afloat. Most notably, Sears sold its Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker. That move eliminated one of the last real reasons for any car nut getting a vehicle serviced at Sears to actually walk the floor while waiting. Those same tools are now on sale at Lowe’s.
Tire Rack presently operates in the same retail space Amazon looks ready to occupy. Comparing Tire Rack’s three main strengths makes us think Amazon is perfect for this business. First, Tire Rack provides a wide variety of brands. Second, despite the complexity of what’s going on behind the scenes, the ordering system is the most user-friendly anywhere. Click what you want and tires show up at your door — seemingly before you’ve even had a chance to order them.
Finally, Tire Rack’s owner reviews are a key component. Tire Rack was one of the first auto parts suppliers to post reviews, in great detail and in great numbers, by folks who had just bought the exact tire for the exact vehicle you are considering buying. This information is valuable, and reviews like these are also an Amazon strength.
The challenge for any tire retailer, though, is installation. Tire Rack does not have a tire service partner, but instead has a network of 7,500 installers around the country. Each Tire Rack installer takes a Price Pledge and agrees to post exact quotes for installation services. Each Tire Rack installation shop is also rated by Tire Rack’s customers, just like the tires are.
We all know what Amazon can bring to this partnership, but what Sears can bring, even in the current shell of its old self, is also impressive. Over 400 national service locations ready to go. Over 2,000 technicians already trained, certified, and experienced. The partnership is also a two-way street. Sears will begin selling its house brand DieHard tires via Amazon. DieHard tires are manufactured for Sears by Kumho.
This isn’t the first time Sears and Amazon have worked together. Over a year ago, Sears began selling its appliances through Amazon. “Kenmore is now distributed nationally on Amazon with over 250 products and we are exceeding customer service level expectations,” said Tom Park, president of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands at Sears Holdings.
Author’s Note: One of my oldest “carguy” memories is going to get tires with my dad at Sears back in the early 1970s. I can still remember the sensations of being in that store. The smell of the rubber, the sounds from the air guns, and the textures of the display tires with the little mold flash nubs still sticking out. I loved looking through the window to the shop area and seeing the cars up on lifts and workers covered in grease manhandling the freshly mounted tires up onto our 1970 Duster. Even then I thought that would be a cool job for me. I’d later go on to work at the Porter Square Cambridge, Mass. Sears location just before it closed – In the linen and draperies department. Sorry folks, not all fairy tales work out the way you’d expect.