40 years of Eden Tyres & Servicing

Date: 25th June 2021 Author Stephen Goodchild of Tyrepress

Eden Tyres & Servicing turns 40 this year, and in contrast to many people who reach this milestone, the company has never been in better shape. When Tyres & Accessories first published its UK tyre retail network ranking back in 2011, Eden Tyres operated just seven outlets. This number had grown to 18 by the time we published the ‘leading 25 UK tyre retail chains 2021’ table last month. A 19th outlet is due to open its doors before the year is out, and several more are in planning.

The company rounds out four decades in the business with a team of around 200 in its retail and wholesale divisions, as well as a dedicated regional team, but the Eden Tyres & Servicing story begins with just five people and a single outlet. John and Pat Eden opened the first branch of ETS, as it was then known, on Upperdale Road in Normanton, Derby in June 1981 with a team of just five, themselves included. Joining John and Pat at the Upperdale Road site was 35-year-old Peter McDermott.

When we spoke with Peter about his early days with the company, he shared that he was headhunted by John Eden for his talents as a welder, a skill which held him in good stead in the days when much of a day’s work involved replacing exhausts and other mechanical repairs; Peter still recalls the particularly troublesome suspensions of Fords from that era. The team at Derbyshire’s newest fast-fit centre also offered tyre fitting from the start and satisfied the motoring public in that less demanding age with fewer than 100 tyre SKUs and just a handful of brands and sizes.

“I often had three jobs on the go at one time,” reminisces McDermott. “I could be fitting tyres on two cars and also installing an exhaust on a Cortina at the same time.”

Peter McDermott speaks fondly of his years with Eden Tyres & Servicing. Establishing a new business comes with unexpected challenges and isn’t for the faint of heart, but Peter describes founder John Eden as a “hand-on kind of guy” who has “worked hard and taken risks.” He appreciates the support that John and his wife Pat have shown him from the very start and the sense of team that’s always been part of the Eden Tyres experience. He even remained in contact with John during a lengthy sojourn in France a couple of decades back, and this led to an eventual return to the familiar surroundings of Upperdale Road.

“When I told John that I intended to return to the UK he mentioned that one of his branch managers was leaving to join the Police Service,” says McDermott. “I took on this role and haven’t been on the spanners this past 20 years.”

From dozens to thousands of SKUs

Tyres still account for around 40 per cent of Eden Tyres & Servicing’s retail turnover (as well as 100 per cent of its wholesale business), but much has changed since 1981. Retail managing director Matt Eden recalls that the early days of Eden Tyres were also the heyday of the DIY mechanic. This was an era when many vehicle owners preferred to have a stab at repairs themselves and only entrusted their pride and joy to a garage when it left them stranded by the side of the road. “These days vehicles are far more complex and so tend to be repaired by professionals. Modern cars are much more reliable and break down less frequently, and tyre technology has improved – making tyres more reliable and longer-lasting. However, with many more cars on the roads than 40 years ago, our workshops are still always busy.”

 

As Matt Eden mentions, tyre technology has improved, and the introduction of technologies such as run-flat, self-sealant and the proliferation of rim sizes mean that the number of SKUs available for today’s vehicle parc can literally be counted into the thousands. Matt shares that Eden Tyres stocks over 80,000 tyres in its warehouse, a portfolio covering everything from exclusive labels to premium brands.

Mechanical work – the remaining 60 per cent of Eden Tyres’ retail business – continues to keep staff at the 18 branches on their toes after 40 years in the business. Modern cars may be much more reliable than their ancestors, but new technologies present both challenges and opportunities. Pete McDermott comments that he’s always been impressed by Eden Tyres’ readiness to invest in new equipment; Matt Eden says the company is now looking ahead and planning for the future with an eye upon the UK’s growing electric and hybrid car parc.

“We aim to be market leaders by investing in new technologies that will serve to enhance our customer experience. We are always willing to adapt and commit to change,” he adds. “We’ve been anticipating the growing trend for electric vehicles for a number of years now and have put in place a training programme and staff development, with the aim of ensuring all our technicians are EV & hybrid trained in the next two years.”

This training will be accompanied by investments in equipment and facilities, and Matt says this new technology will give the company “a clear opportunity to be market leaders when it comes to after-market servicing for hybrid and electric vehicles.”

Impartial, honest advice

Eden Tyres & Servicing has shared the tyre and mechanical servicing market with large national fast-fit chains from the very start, but competition has grown fiercer in the years since John Eden retired and handed over management of the business to twin sons Matt and James in 2005. The UK’s first online tyre retailers emerged in the early 2000s, and turning to the internet to buy tyres or at least compare prices is now ubiquitous.

“The increase in online tyre retailers has ensured customers can shop around more easily to get the very best deal. This means we have to work hard to ensure our products and services are very high quality at the right price,” comments Matt Eden.

One factor playing to Eden Tyres & Servicing’s advantage here is its independence. As Matt points out, this allows the “freedom of being able to recommend and sell any make of tyre” – and this enables the Eden Tyres team to offer its customers “impartial, honest advice.” As an independent, Eden Tyres can also implement changes very quickly within the business and respond to customer requests and demands.

“Although many people may view having large, national chains as competitors a disadvantage, we don’t see it that way,” Matt adds. “Having strong competition keeps us on our toes and focused on being at the very top of our game, ensuring our customer service and quality of services is second to none.” Feedback left on TrustPilot from customers who’ve been visiting Eden Tyres centres for 20, 30 and even 40 years indicates that this focus on customer service hasn’t gone unnoticed.

COVID-19 & work-life balance

This past year has been a challenging one for the automotive aftermarket, and although garage staff were identified as key workers, fast fit retailers needed to respond quickly with hygiene concepts. It is believed that more than half of all garages in the UK closed their doors at some point early in the first lockdown, and all needed to reckon with restrictions in the months that followed.

When we spoke with Eden Tyres & Servicing in May 2021 these restrictions were still in place. The retail MD confirmed that the company will maintain them for as long as they feel they’re needed to help customers and staff stay protected.

Not all changes related to COVID-19 have been negative, however. Matt shares that the crisis has taught him and his team that “family life is precious.” Eden Tyres & Servicing operated seven days a week in past years – Pete McDermott remembers several occasions earlier in his career when he worked a “six-day week plus a day’s overtime” – but Matt Eden shares that the company is “now moving to a five-and-a-half-day week to improve work-life balance for staff.”

Further branches on the horizon

Plans for the coming five years cover Eden Tyres & Servicing’s growth to more than 25 branches – when looking at Tyres & Accessories’ 2021 rankings, this would make the chain the UK’s 18th largest at the very least. In addition to the new branch scheduled to open later this year, Eden Tyres intends to open a further two in 2022.

Matt and James Eden are the second generation to take on the family business, and they intend to remain at the helm for some time yet. Matt notes that the third generation is still in education and planning on attending university, therefore it’s “too early to say whether they’ll move into the business.”

Looking after generations of drivers

As for Pete McDermott, chances are good that he’ll be around next time you drop by the Eden Tyres & Servicing branch in Upperdale Road. Almost an institution in the local community after four decades, Pete is accustomed to encountering motorists who visited the centre with their parents as children and now bring their own cars in for tyres and mechanical work.

“The business has grown so much over the years, and I spend more time on computer work and less with staff and customers than I’d like to, but I’ve always felt supported and am happy here,” says Pete McDermott. “We look after customers, and they trust us to give them a fair deal and a good choice of products.” In closing, Pete says that even after 40 years, he has no intention of calling it a day. “I enjoy my work and the contacts I make – and doing something I love makes my days off even better as well!”