Last year’s attempt by Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC (BSRO) to acquire Pep Boys — Manny, Moe & Jack wasn’t a random shot at growth. It was one gigantic step to fulfill Bridgestone’s plan to increase its footprint to at least 3,000 tire and service centers in the U.S. One failed deal aside, the company isn’t backing down from its plan to grow.
Stu Crum, president of the tire maker’s company-owned stores, says the company is looking to expand its retail reach, which currently includes 2,200 company-owned stores in 48 states. Those stores employ more than 23,000 people and operate under four brands. The largest is Firestone Complete Auto Care, with 1,600 stores, followed by Tires Plus, Hibdon Tires Plus, and Wheel Works.
“We are on a growth journey. You see 2,200 stores but quite frankly our goal is to get to 3,000-3,500 stores,” Crum says. “We thought we did that with the purchase of Pep Boys.
“I tell you what, negotiating with Carl Icahn was the most interesting six months of my life. You don’t get to negotiate with people worth $22 billion very often.”
Two months after Pep Boys initially agreed to a purchase by Bridgestone, Icahn ultimately outbid the tire company for the Philadelphia-born chain, paying $18.50 per share, or more than $1 billion for the service chain which operates 800 stores.
Crum says he expects BSRO to grow via new store openings, as well as acquisitions. He says there are a “couple” of non-disclosure statements signed already, and that the company will make a couple of acquisition announcements yet this year.
As for organic growth, Crum says Bridgestone is adding 25 new stores in 2016, probably 40 stores in 2017, and as many as 60 or 65 stores each year after that.
Another part of Bridgestone's growth plan is a new focus on fleets. Read Modern Tire Dealer's exclusive story here: Bridgestone Stores Eye Fleets for Growth