A first-class “hotel” without a wellness centre and a five-star restaurant but equipped with excellent services designed to accommodate not people, but tires. The "tire hotel" - a peculiar name for "seasonal storage" - is a service supplied by tire dealers, retailers, aftermarket service centres and specialised networks that allows motorists to put their summer or winter tires "at rest" for the months in which they are not needed. Every year, even in Italy, when the rain starts to fall copiously, snow is not restricted to the top of the highest peaks and temperatures drop to around zero, it is time to equip cars and heavy vehicles with suitable winter “shoes”. Fitting winter tires - compulsory for circulation on many roads and freeways from 15 November to 15 April, as an alternative to having snow chains on board - concerns about 60% of Italian motorists. The same drivers who, with the return of the warmer season, must proceed with the reverse operation.
Replacing tires fitting the ones most suitable for the season is not only a good, efficient, and safe practice but also a purely organisational and logistical issue. Twice a year, in fact, this service must be booked at a service centre or a tire dealer and, in at least one case out of five, the drivers are faced with the dilemma of where and how to store the set of tires removed. The seasonal storage service was created precisely as a solution to this last problem, offering drivers who do not have suitable space, the opportunity to give their tires a more than adequate “accommodation”: dedicated environments, properly equipped, clean, protected, with constantly monitored temperature, humidity and ozone levels, light intensity, presence of contaminants such as oil, grease and more, all "enemies" of our tire. Correct storage in suitable environments and following precise rules for storage and handling is crucial for safeguarding tires from damage and deformations that alter their characteristics and penalise their performance. The tire hotel is therefore not simply a make-shift solution for those who lack space, but also a quality choice.
A win-win solution
Convenient and practical for the motorist, the seasonal storage service is also an opportunity for the aftermarket operator who, through this activity, can increase turnover, increase the frequency of contacts with the end user, engage and retain customers. This is why over the years the market offer has grown significantly. The service is offered by almost all the main specialized service networks, whether retailers and/or independent operators and even some small companies that are able to respond to market demand for this service, relying on third parties and companies specialized in tire storage and logistics. "Master Custodia", for example, is the seasonal storage service offered by Euromaster, Michelin group's aftermarket network with over 2,300 points in Europe. "This is a solution that completes our package of services - explains Paolo Lomonaco, trade marketing & communication manager at Euromaster. On average, about 20% of the people who choose our network for their seasonal tire changes request it online or go directly to the point of sale". Each commercial activity is managed directly by each centre. "Since they are in franchising - continues Lomonaco - we cannot impose costs and prices on them, but we do provide guidelines, as well as tools to implement the various related services and offers".
Euromaster affiliates manage the storage at their own depots, after having the consumer sign a storage contract in which the details and terms of the products are summarized in order to guarantee their traceability. The cost, counted per season (8 months) and renewable, can vary, depending on the area, in an average range between 5 and 12 Euro per tire. "In return, the motorist can be certain that his summer or winter tires will be stored for the entire period required in a safe, cool and dry place, protected from light and in full compliance with the guidelines for proper product storage – says Paolo Lomonaco. Proper storage in fact protects tires from premature wear, avoids damage caused by careless handling, as well as cracks and deformations caused by incorrect stacking or storage in unsuitable places. It can therefore prolong the life of tires, saving money and above all guaranteeing safety". The “tire hotel” service may seem relatively simple, but its management is rather complex: "organization of workflows and well-defined work processes and supporting IT systems to make the service efficient for the consumer and profitable for the operators - says Alberto Zanoli, CEO of the Driver (Pirelli) network, which has more than 400 points of sale in Italy. Our network looks at offering innovative services, which is expressed by additional or supplementary services to those already existing. We therefore try to give the end customer a complete array of solution to meet different needs: from booking online through our portal to door-to-door pick-up and drop-off services". Professionalism and organization are essential aspects in the definition of the service. "Storage depots can be defined as real business units with their own profit and loss account and with dedicated staff and spaces - continues Zanoli. Many structures manage the warehouse separately, renting or purchasing additional space. It can certainly be a profitable activity, but it must be correctly managed".
An incentive in this sense is given by the demand that, over the years, has remained stable. "There has been a slight variation that can be ascribed to the different mobility needs of the target consumers, rather than to territorial areas - admits Alberto Zanoli. Geographically, the percentage varies in direct proportion to the size of the winter segment and the catchment area: in a metropolitan area like Milan, for example, tire hotel services are almost a must, while in rural areas customers often have the option of storing their tires in their own garages". Interest in tire hotel services is also growing among retailers and operators, many of whom are deciding to offer this kind of service. "More and more retailers prefer to use their own space other more pressing activities and therefore choose to delegate tire management and storage to third party professionals", confirms Elena Mugione, Trade Marketing Manager, Brand & ADV, Bridgestone EMIA, South Region. The tire hotel service is therefore a purely B2B proposal offered by Bridgestone to its entire First Stop service network (over 2,000 centres in Europe, of which almost 200 in Italy), but also to Bridgestone partners: "We give dealers the opportunity to store their customers' used tires in our warehouse. Bookings can be made through our digital platform Bekube and the service includes pick-up and delivery at the tire shop. The depot is managed by our logistics partner, who takes care of the transport and storage at the Bridgestone central warehouse. This type of solution - continues Mugione - is particularly useful for tire dealers with little available space, such as workshops located in city centres. It is therefore in densely populated urban areas, where space is limited and more expensive, that we find the highest demand". Beyond the functional aspects, Elena Mugione also underlines the economic advantage for the dealer. "The tire hotel is without a doubt a profitable activity as tire dealers normally have the opportunity to offer this service for a fee to their end customers. On a B2B level, this is an important lever, as Bridgestone is able to help retailers overcome a problem, such as space, which is often particularly relevant for retailers, who - she concludes - can thus dedicate their available space mainly to sales and reception activities".