A1 SuperCheap Tyres, a COVID-19 Success Story

1 June, 2020

21 mins read

two men in a tyre shop

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While COVID-19 has affected every business in Australia, it hasn’t necessarily been a negative change for some. One such business was A1 SuperCheap Tyres on the Gold Coast.

Localsearch Head of SEO Mike Andrew caught up with owner of A1 SuperCheap Tyres, Rob Whyte to find how he, his business and staff managed during the early stages of COVID-19, as well as how digital marketing with Localsearch helped them keep their doors open.

Introduction (0.00 to 0:17)

Mike Andrew: Hi, I’m Mike Andrew, Head of SEO here at Localsearch, and I’m chatting today with Rob Whyte, owner of A1 SuperCheap Tyres on how their company has marketed themselves during the COVID-19 event. Hi, Rob.

Rob Whyte: Hi Mike, how are you?

Mike Andrew: Very well, thank you.

Business Performance Pre-COVID-19 (0:18 to 1:40)

Mike Andrew: Tell us a little bit about A1 SuperCheap Tyres before COVID-19.

Rob Whyte: A1 SuperCheap Tyres was a business I purchased 18 months ago and we were growing it. We’d introduced new products and new services like brakes and servicing and, you know, we were certainly growing steadily. 

Even before COVID-19, business was a little bit tough, you know? Like, everyone would say 2020, before this even happened, or 2019 was sort of one of their toughest years… Business wasn’t booming pre-this. There was a lot of uncertainty; a lot of like, “Oh, it’s quiet,” you know? We blamed it on the show holidays, we blamed it on all sorts of other things that went on. 

You know, business in the automotive industry was generally a little bit down. But we were powering through that and we were, you know, when people were still talking about, you know, hey, business is real slow, we’re dead, we still seemed to be going okay. 

So, we were fairly happy with where we were pre-COVID-19 and yes so obviously when this all came …. as I said I worried a lot about where we were going.

Adapting the Business to COVID-19 (1:41 to 3:09)

Mike Andrew: Sure. Regulations changed pretty quickly in Australia. What did you do to adapt your business when the lockdowns came in?

Rob Whyte: So, the first thing we obviously did is [improve] hygiene. The biggest thing for us is we’re in and out of customers’ cars. We’re touching the same steering wheel, touching the same gear stick and door handle. So, we have to do that to do our job. So, the first thing we brought in was nitro-glycerine work gloves. Basically, they are like a high-strength rubber glove. 

Hand sanitiser, we actually could get some. We have some on the front desk. We’ve got some in the work area. So, the staff are constantly washing their hands or using the hand sanitiser and using the gloves. 

Basically, we had to shut our internal showroom down. We have a waiting area and a lounge that we’ve had to shut that down. We were fortunate to have, we’ve got a big deck with a TV and outdoor furniture up here. So, you know, we just have to shift all the customers out to waiting outside. And everyone was really understanding everyone. No one questioned or said, “That’s silly,“ or anything like that. Everyone was just like, yeah, no problem at all, we completely get it. So, it hasn’t been as much of a disruption as we thought it would be.

It feels weird and silly but, it becomes the new norm. And I think it’ll be interesting to see how things change once all this goes away.

A Digital Marketing Strategy (3:10 to 9:16)

Mike Andrew: I mean, people went into a state of shock for some time once the lockdown came into place and then a lot of people clamped up. What did you as a business try to do to get your message across to them?

Rob Whyte: Basically, yeah, we got on our social media and, you know, we told people, “Hey, we are still open. We are still trading.” You know, I did a Facebook video and just reassured that we are there for people, you know.

We were preparing for the worst. But, it turned out. People need tyres. We were fortunate that we’re an essential service. You know, I mean, like, even if we had a full lockdown like, we’re considered an essential service. As long as there is car and trucks driving around to do essential things, they need a workshop to be… put tyres on that car or put oil in that car. So, we were always going to be open.

We did have a point where it looked like the worst was going to happen, and I’d actually called Localsearch and said, “Hey, you know, I think we should suspend our advertising.” Because, you know, obviously anything to cut any fixed expense we could.

That was the worst thing I ever did because I drastically noticed a decline in the thing [business]. I just naturally thought that was part of the COVID [COVID-19] stuff. I just thought we were just generally quiet. I did call Adam and said, “Look, I think, we’re still getting enough business to justify opening. Let’s put the Google [Ads] back on and see what happens.” I couldn’t believe it, it was like a light bulb was switched on. Just straight back to practically doing normal trade figures. So, it was amazing and it’s just it’s amazing how much that… how much it works.

Mike Andrew: So, it would be fair to say, the digital marketing strategy through Localsearch really assisted your business during this period?

Rob Whyte: Yeah, one hundred percent. You know, as I said, our business doubled since it [Google Ads] was turned back on. It was noticeable, and I don’t think that’s any coincidence.

Mike Andrew:  Well, talking about that, was there ever a time you thought about closing the doors during the event?

Rob Whyte: What for good or for…?

Mike Andrew: Well, during the lockdown or did you think it was going to have such a big impact on your business that you might not be able to continue to trade?

Rob Whyte:  I certainly considered it, we may be. If it was going to come down to a complete lockdown and we were only going to be open for people that we’re doing completely essential things, my intention was to. We would shut the business and stand the staff down ‘til things go better.

But it just never happened. We just didn’t slow down. We’re still going now and you know, this week, it’s Friday now, this week will probably be one of our best weeks to record since buying the business 18 months ago. So, it’s astounding, and that may be because there is definitely light on the horizon with lifting restrictions this weekend and people want to use their cars. They want to get out, and they’ve still got time.

I think a lot of people have time, and I think, if they’re on the internet, they’re looking. So, you know, everyone’s looking at their mobile phones and their computers a lot more than normal. I guess for us, we’re now doing our best to be as visible as possible on those devices and I think that’s working. Because there are shops like ours, probably not doing the same marketing as us and they’re very quiet.

We’ve got shops that come up and, you know, we talk to other shops as well, and they’re really, really quiet. They said, “Wow, you’re busy,” and yeah we are, and I can only put that down. So if the industry is quiet, and we’re busy because we were doing you know, we were going swimming against the current.

We’re advertising, you know. Yes, we’re open. We’re doing good deals. You know, we’re saving money and we’re a business that’s about budget. We’re not selling premium brands. We’re not selling Bridgestones and Perelli, even though we do sell those products, but our everyday business is not expensive brands. We’ve got some quality economical brands that we sell. So, it’s saving people money now and now more than ever.

Everyone needs tyres no matter when or how, they eventually have to. Well, if you’ve got a car, you pretty much tyres on it every so often. So, as opposed to Bridgestones that are $150 a tyre, we can do, you know, a premium Hilo for $79 a tyre. People are a lot more conscious of money and saying, “Hey, I really usually put Bridgestones on my car, but I really don’t want to spend that sort of money anymore. I’d rather just get something that’s okay,” and maybe that’s why we’re doing well. And, you know, and maybe that’s why we’re doing well. I’m not sure. Yeah. I certainly put a lot of it down to our digital marketing.

Mike Andrew: I mean, that was our message to a lot of our clients as well as to not stop what they were doing because people were searching. The visibility was high. Searches were high. People still needed product, albeit in a different manner probably than what they did before. But all the companies who were wanting to stop their marketing meant that in some ways, Google will probably drop them because they’re not high profile, they’re not dynamic enough. 

We were saying don’t stop them and you still need to be there. You still need to advertise because there will be an end of this event. And when you come out of it, if you keep doing what you do now, you’re going to be in a stronger position at the end of it than what you did probably when you went in because of the change in the nature of search.

Advice for Other Business Owners (9:17 to 11:47)

Mike Andrew: Rob, what would you say to business owners right now who are still a little bit hesitant to just have a go, try and secure their future as well as their staff? What tips would you say, given your experience over the last six weeks? What advice would you give to a business owner now?

Rob Whyte: Look, my best advice is, it’s a sink or swim situation.

I mean, you can either, you know, it’s really easy to give up and it’s really easy to just hide in the corner, clutch in all your expenses and sit there and try and ride this out. But I feel that you’re going to be weak at the end of this. You’re going to have to pretty much start again. You know, we did the opposite and we each spent, we upped our Google [Ads] and we pushed forward like nothing’s happened. I think that’s the best thing to do is to… Look, if you’re a travel agent or something like that, I completely get it — it is really against the current. If you’re a business that still can trade, you need to just adapt and go for it, you know what I mean?

I surprised myself because I doubted ourselves when I was like, well it [increasing Google Ads] was a test. I didn’t think it was going to be as effective as it was. And it worked. So, you know, go against sometimes what your instinct tells you and have a go. Well you can’t say, “What have you got to lose?” Well, obviously there is something to lose, but, it’s not like you’re running a twenty-thousand-dollar TV ad campaign or a ten-thousand-dollar radio campaign. You know, it’s affordable. You can spend as much as you want. It pays to be, there are a lot of people that are hiding in the corners and just trying to ride this out, not really doing much. And if you’re seen to be proactive and trying just get back to work and trying to promote your business, I think a lot of people respect that. A lot of people are happy to support you, if that’s the way you go.

Mike Andrew: That’s perfect. Rob, thank you so much for chatting with me this morning. I really appreciate your insights and your advice to other business people. Thank you so much.

Rob Whyte: All right. Thanks very much.

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