The Economic Recovery Gains Traction


“This piece isn’t going to make me busier, is it?” asked Tom Swauger, owner of K & S Tires in Quakertown, PA, about an hour north of Philadelphia. “I can barely handle what I have already!”

Swauger is talking about a major increase in volume that he links directly to a recovering economy. He’s not an economic pundit. He’s not a marketing genius. In fact he doesn’t advertise, doesn’t even have a light on his sign along Route 309. Yet in 34 years of business he’s seen a number of economic cycles, and he thinks this recovery is for real.

I met Tom because I needed tires for my Toyota RAV. Two people had told me about K & S within the last month. They both warned me that it was not very impressive looking. “It’s not fancy, but they get it done.”

What? No Web Site! No Hydraulic Lifts!

I went on-line. K & S does not have a web site. But I was able to surf for customer comments on Yahoo Local. Good reviews with customers doing the digital marketing for K&S Tire Company

When I arrived, there were two big trucks getting tires. Two cars were being worked on under the awning. Tom came out immediately. He examined each tire and the spare before finally saying: “Lots of sidewall dry rot. Your spare’s in better shape than the other tires. You might not pass your next inspection.”

He noted the tire size and invited me into the spartan “waiting room.” No computer-based inventory program, just a three-ring binder. “Yep, two options in your size. Both the same price, I’d recommend the Coopers.”

He rolled the tires two-at-a-time into a work room where a couple of his nine employees were balancing tires. No hydraulic lifts, no computerized alignment equipment, just guys hustling. Outside, the RAV had been raised with low-slung jacks. Things were taken care of within 15 minutes. There was a brief lull to speak with Tom.

The K & S non-digital warehouse.

Like Politics, the Economy is Local

“How’s business?” I asked him.

“We haven’t been this busy since late 2007,” he said.

“Why do you think you’re so busy now?”

“I think the economy is finally coming back,” Tom said.

“What do you base that on?” I asked.

“A couple of things,” he said. “This is the first time in years that I’m selling tires for campers and boat trailers. That tells me that people are taking vacations. You need time and money for a vacation.”

“I couldn’t give a construction vehicle tire away since 2008 because there weren’t any construction vehicles on the road. That business is coming back, and it’s coming back strong.”

“And finally, I take a fishing vacation to Canada every summer the same week in August. In 2008 and 2009 there was no wait to get across the border at Thousand Island Bridge. This year there were long lines of Americans going in. A lot of them, like me, were towing boats. People are getting back on the road and spending vacation money.”

“I see the economy where the rubber hits the road. I’m optimistic,” he said.

Another happy K & S customer almost ready to roll.

Then came the October 15 Wall Street Journal article that pretty much confirmed what Tom Swauger was observing. The Journal reported that Winnebago Industries, the motor-home manufacturer, posted a profit of $4.9 million in their fiscal fourth quarter which ended August 28. “For the year, Winnebago said motor-home shipments more than doubled and dealer inventories for its vehicles jumped 21%”

So whether you’re driving a new Winnebago, or towing a fishing boat to your favorite lake, it looks as if some sectors of leisure discretionary spending are coming back.

So, what’s your perspective on the economy?
Is it on the road to recovery?

Share your view by replying below.

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