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July 29, 2011

Tire Kingdom vs. Discount Tire

Both retail chains reach 800 stores. Which is No. 1?

by Bob Ulrich - Also by this author

"Growth from acquisitions will be accelerated," said Monro Muffler Brake CEO Robert Gross, after 1Q 2011 results.
 Growth from acquisitions will be accelerated,  said Monro Muffler Brake CEO Robert Gross, after 1Q

For the first time ever, an independent tire dealership has reached 800 stores. And there are two of them on The Modern Tire Dealer 100.

TBC Corp., based out of Juno Beach, Fla., leads the way with 837 company-owned stores. It does business as Tire Kingdom, Merchant’s Tire, NTB and Big O Tires.

Discount Tire Co. Inc., based in Scottsdale, Ariz., reached 800 stores earlier this year.  It does business as Discount Tire everywhere but in California, where its stores go by America’s Tire.

“Continued growth” best describes the goal of the dealerships listed on the 10th  annual MTD 100, which ranks independent tire dealer chains in the United States based on retail and commercial store count (because of a six-way tie for 100, there are actually 105 dealers on the list this year). In a recent survey of the top dealerships, three-quarters of the respondents said they plan to increase their store count this year.

The top five dealers all added stores in the last year. Combined, they account for 46%, or 2,478, of the 5,310 outlets on the list. The top 100 dealers themselves represent nearly 18% of the 30,000 independent tire dealerships nationwide.

Les Schwab Tire Centers of Bend, Ore., is the third largest chain with 430 stores. Rounding out the top five are a pair of New York-based companies: Monro Muffler Brake Inc. of Rochester is fourth at 291, and Mavis Discount Tire of Mount Kisco is fifth at 120.

Monro Muffler Brake’s total includes Mr. Tire, Tread Quarters and Autotire Car Care Center retail outlets. It also includes the 24-store, South River, N.J.-based Vespia Tire Centers Inc. chain, which the company purchased in May of this year. It does not include any of the company’s 492 muffler shops, which also sell tires.

Under Chairman and CEO Robert Gross’s leadership, Monro has increased its store count 268% since 2003.

Vespia Tire was one of two “top 50” dealerships to drop off the list from last year to this year. Last year’s seventh largest dealership, New Big 10 Tire Stores Inc., was purchased by Pep Boys ­— Manny, Moe & Jack in May.

Opportunities knock

We asked the top dealers the following question: “What opportunities do you see for your business?” Their answers were straight and to the point.

“Continued growth in our current footprint and expansion into new markets,” said John Snider, president of Snider Tire Inc. (23rd on the MTD 100) in Greensboro, N.C. Snider also was MTD’s Tire Dealer of the Year in 2010.

“We’re buoyant on continuing to sharpen our retail model and adding more sites in the future,” said Randy Jones, president of Tireman Auto Service Centers (71st) in Toledo, Ohio. “I feel that there is a strong demand for professional auto service centers that do things right and have enough buying power to be competitive.”

Hennelly Tire & Auto Inc. (31st) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wants new store growth of six to eight The Tire Choice stores per year, according to CEO Dan Hennelly.

Jeff Darrow, president of Certified Tire & Service Centers (44th) in Riverside, Calif., said he not only wants more retail locations, but also “increased p.m. business!” Bill Ziegler, president of Ziegler Tire & Supply Co. (59th) in Massillon, Ohio, said he is tying his business growth to the health of the economy.

Randy Clark, chairman of Dunn Tire LLC (35th) in Buffalo, N.Y., said market share expansion is doable. Dunn Tire opened its 31st store in July.

A number of dealers are looking forward to more organic growth within their respective organizations.

“Better unit sales and higher tire unit growth,” said John Quirk, CEO of VIP Parts, Tires & Service Corp. (14th) in Lewiston, Maine.  Jeff Kruse, vice president of Belle Tire Distributors (8th) in Allen Park, Mich., echoed those thoughts.

Today’s business environment is too competitive for some, said Russell “Rusty” Coats, operations director for Bore/MPC LLC (84th), the largest Big O franchisee in the country with 13 stores in and around Columbia, Mo.

“The increased complexity of late-model vehicles will force a number of smaller — or non-affiliated — tire dealerships out of business,” he said. “Governmental burdens will add to the desire of smaller, and older, operators to consider career changes.”   

For the Modern Tire Dealer 100 charts, click here.

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