To order, fleet operators simply log on to the relevant website, track down the tyre of their choice, key in a location for fitting and the computer does the rest.
Companies offering the service include Black Circles, through its website www.blackcircles.com. After an order has been placed, the firm will dispatch tyres to a local franchisee. These are independent MoT garages contractually partnered to the group and it is all done within 12 hours if based in a city centre or 48 hours in more rural areas.
Black Circles claims to undercut dealer and fast-fit prices by 40% and following interest from the fleet industry, the group has just launched its first fleet-related product.
The result is Black Circles Fleet and although the group’s managing director Mike Welch only launched the service six months ago, he already has 8,000 small to medium-sized companies on his books.
Welch explained: ‘Our fleet offering has been born out of the retail business. We never intended on a pure fleet offering but it came about through customer requests. ‘The market we deal with is small company-owned fleets and our typical fleet customer has between 30 and 150 vehicles.’
Using the internet as a tool to crack the tyre industry, the group trades online with a call centre as back-up.
Tyres are purchased from tyre manufacturers and held in various locations across the UK.
Black Circles has grown exponentially since it launched in 2001, increasing from just 60 franchisees offering its service to almost 1,000 outlets.
Welch says that unlike the fast-fit centres, which tend to hold a limited supply of tyres, Black Circles can supply any tyre through any of its 957 fitting centres within 48 hours. There are other companies offering online tyre ordering services including Rubberball.co.uk, which sources its tyres abroad to reduce costs and valuetyres.co.uk, which offers a fitting service once tyres have been purchased online.
However, online ordering is not without its problems and there are some pitfalls in using cyberspace over a traditional walk-in centre. Tyre replacement is normally urgent and unplanned, so having time to order 24 hours in advance isn’t often possible.
Human error can play a part – a slight slip on the keyboard and the wrong tyre could be ordered.
Mike Wise, sales director at Kwik-Fit Fleet, says fast-fit centres are now equipped to supply even the most obscure tyres at short notice.
He said: ‘There is no need for fleets to use online ordering as we have a vast tyre stock with all brands, tyres and sizes available directly from our centres.
‘If we don’t have a tyre at one of the centres we operate a ‘hub and spoke programme’ where some of the larger centres will feed the smaller outlets with the required tyre within two hours. We also have the Kwik-Fit mobile tyre fitting service.’
Martin Barber, group product manager for car and van at ATS Euromaster, believes that many fleets will find better service levels when using a fast-fit company direct.
He said: ‘ATS Euromaster does not fit tyres that it has not supplied. What we provide through our nationwide network of service centres that online retailers cannot is service.
‘It is this service that ensures that all drivers – not only car fleets – can receive expert advice about their tyre needs from our highly-trained technicians.
‘For example, premature tyre wear may be caused by misalignment that could be rectified rather than continually treating or replacing worn tyres.
‘For fleets this may have a significant impact on their vehicle costs.’