By Bruce Davis, Crain staff (TB)
Akron, Ohio - After years, even decades, of shying away from posting prices publicly, the nation's leading tyre makers have started embracing MSRP - manufacturers' suggested retail prices - to meet consumers' growing expectations for such information in their digital shopping realm.
Bridgestone Americas Inc. recently started posting MSRP on its Bridgestone and Firestone websites, joining Goodyear, which started the practice last year.
Michelin North America Inc., citing consumer satisfaction, will start posting MSRP on Michelinman.com before year-end on all Michelin-brand passenger car and light truck tyres for the US
Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. is "reviewing the possibility of initiating an MSRP program," but a spokesperson emphasised no final decisions have been made.
John Baratta, president, consumer tyre replacement sales for Bridgestone Americas, revealed his company's decision at the International Tire Exhibition & Conference in mid-September in Cleveland, and the company elaborated on its decision at its recent Bridgestone Affiliated Dealer meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
Posting MSRP helps consumers "understand product choices relative to one another," according to Michael Fluck, Bridgestone Americas' director of brand and retail marketing, who said recent research indicates nearly nine of 10 consumers who visit the company's websites want pricing.
"About 26 percent of consumers visit one manufacturer site," he said, "while 74 percent visit two or more sites. So we want to give them the information they need."
The firm's policy does not appear to have carried over to the Firestone brand as yet. A recent check of www.fireÂstonetire.com showed no MSRP information.
Michelin also cited consumer satisfaction as a key priority, and said feedback from recent consumer research indicates tyre shoppers are looking for price.
"By adding the MSRP of our tyres on our consumer-facing website, we are providing consumers more value when shopping for tyres online," the company said, while reminding dealers that MSRP is a suggested price only and retailers are free to set their own prices to best meet the needs of their consumers and business model.
The MSRP listed on bridgestonetire.com links to a proviso that states: "Actual pricing may vary based on retailer, region, tyre size and other factors. Retailers are free to set individual prices, which will in no way affect their relationship with Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations L.L.C. or Bridgestone Canada Inc."
Bridgestone's Mr. Fluck told those attending the Affiliated Dealer meeting that recent research shows that tyre dealer websites are slightly more influential on purchase behavior than tyre manufacturer sites. Considering that, he suggested dealers post pricing on their websites, if possible.
Other major tyre makers had not responded at presstime to Tire Business inquiries about the MSRP matter.
How this development will affect retailers remains to be seen.
Dan Hennelly, chairman and CEO of Hennelly Tire & Auto Inc., which does business in Florida as Tire Choice & Total Car Care, said he was taken aback initially when he heard about Bridgestone's MSRP decision at the Nashville Affiliated Dealer meeting. But after seeing the prices posted and comparing them with the pricing levels in Florida - which he termed the most competitive in the nation - his concerns were assuaged.
"If I were in a more rural market, though," he told Tire Business, "I'd be much more concerned."
Mr. Hennelly also said he's noticed customers becoming more price savvy, with an increasing number coming into his stores with price sheets from www.thetirechoice.com website.
What this means for his company, he said, is making sure the Tire Choice counter sales personnel are properly trained in determining customers' needs, "otherwise a weak salesman turns into an order taker."
From Tire Business (A Crain publication)