LEVITTOWN, Pa. — Gallagher Tire Inc., a family-owned and -operated specialty tire wholesaler, has dived into online consumer tire sales with the March launch of Tires4That.com.
John "JP" Gallagher III, owner and president of the Levittown-based distributor, said the decision was prompted by several tire makers, including Bridgestone Americas, Goodyear and Michelin North America, setting up e-platforms last year to sell tires directly to consumers.
"We had been contemplating a direct-to-consumer approach for many years.... With Michelin and some of the other manufacturers going direct to the consumer, we felt it was time to do something and to try and grow our business in a different direction while still maintaining the core ability of servicing our wholesale customers," Mr. Gallagher said.
"One of the main things is we feel we're pretty darn good at the whole specialty business, and we're not tapping into our full potential by limiting it just to tire dealers."
Gallagher Tire, which got its start as a retail store in 1968, today distributes specialty tires and related products to tire dealers along the East Coast, from Maine through the Carolinas, and westward into the Midwest.
The distributor operates warehouses in Levittown and Harrisburg, Pa., and Liverpool, N.Y.
Mr. Gallagher described Tires4That.com as "our best way to cost-effectively expand our reach."
He said the company opted to add retail operations through the Internet rather than open a retail store because of the lower overhead costs (only two employees manage the website) and "realistically, it's a heck of a lot easier."
"People may not buy all these products online, but they are certainly doing the research online...," he said, adding, "People buy cars now online. They can certainly buy a lawnmower tire."
Gallagher Tire operates a website for dealers but decided to launch a separate consumer site with a different name and, so far, no obvious connection to Gallagher Tire.
"As for the name of it, it was sort of a tidbit from when I was growing up in the business and my friends, knowing I was in the tire business, would ask, 'Do you sell tires for that?'...It's something that stuck with me," Mr. Gallagher said.
He claimed Tires4That.com won't be competing with his dealer customers.
"We've priced the site to the point where our regular customers can certainly buy and resell (tires) and still make a good profit compared to what the end-user would be paying on our site," he said.
Gallagher Tire Inc. photo John Gallagher in his company's warehouse.
"We still want to protect our dealers in some fashion," added Mike Picozzi, Gallagher Tire vice president.
"They've been loyal customers for many, many years, and we want to give them the opportunity to buy the tire from us and sell it.
"If we can expand this market throughout the rest of the country, that's where we're hoping to grow."
Tires4That.com offers ATV/UTV, forklift, construction, trailer, lawn and garden and farm tires, along with wheels and inner tubes.
Purchases are shipped directly to the customer. Currently the site doesn't ship tires to installers, Mr. Gallagher said.
He said the consumer site has been "getting a few sales" so far.
"We've taken our time and trying to find the right partner for the digital marketing," he said, which he hopes to launch in June to promote the new website.
"We're developing our strategy now and coming to a point where we're ready to pick our digital marketing partner," he said, adding, "Once in place, we'll be able to hold our own, and then some, as far as our knowledge base, our pricing and, really, having the product."
Gallagher Tire distributes several tire brands, including Alliance, Camso, Carlisle, CropMax, Deestone, Galaxy, Gladiator, Kenda, Nexen, Goodyear farm tires, ITP, Interco and Titan.