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American Tire Distributors: National impact

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American Tire Distributors: National impact

This year, American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) chose to hold 21 different regional meetings for its Tire Pros dealers instead of hosting one main event, as it did in 2012. If the idea behind doing this type of meeting was to create a highly personalized discussion with its dealers, then it worked.

Along with nearly 20 Tire Pros franchisees, MTD was invited to attend the two-day meeting held just outside Charlotte, N.C., near ATD’s corporate headquarters. Continuing a theme from 2012, Dan Brown, executive vice president of sales for ATD, told the dealers, “We are working hard to build a national retail brand for your business.”

Tire Pros will continue to use the “Everything rotates around you” tag line for its consumer advertising in 2013. Tire Pros grew by 104 locations during 2012, with a total of 522 locations now waving the Tire Pros banner. Brown said the company is committed “to building the largest network of high-quality dealers in the industry” and is shooting to “exit 2013 with over 600 locations.”

But, he cautioned, “we must all improve our bottom-line profitability” to achieve success for everyone.”

Brown told the group that 2012 was a down year for the entire industry in terms of unit volume, but he was pleased that Tire Pros dealers were up 5.5% in dollar sales of passenger and light truck tires.

Continuing his overview of the aftermarket in 2012, Brown said 182 Tire Pros dealers “embraced our Quick Bay program we started during the year.” The Quick Bay program guarantees tire installation in 59 minutes or less. Another 55 Tire Pros dealers added online appointment booking, and 100% of the dealers were promoting the warranty package.

The Tire Pros “Quick Screen” credit program, which pre-qualifies a buyer for credit worthiness, was launched in September; Brown singled this out as something Tire Pros dealers have exclusively.

“All of this is driven around simplifying the buying experience for the consumers. It delivers no hassles for them.”

As a group, Tire Pros spent roughly $9 million in all forms of advertising in 2012. The company plans to have more than 20 “group campaigns” in 2013, up three from 2012.

The company has produced three new television spots for local dealers for 2013. The spots will emphasize the Tire Pros coast-to-coast warranty, its Quick-Bay program and its Roadside Assistance program.

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Tire Pros also will continue its mystery shopper phone call program in the marketplace, and the results will be shared with all Tire Pros dealers. Brown told dealers that they have doubled their improvement on phone sales from the previous year.

Continual training for dealers was a key topic discussed by Dave Crawford, vice president of operations and training for Tire Pros. The company added 10 training modules to its mix in 2012, with more due out this year.

The company has designed its training modules to be 15 minutes long. Tire Pros now requires all new franchisees to attend new dealer orientation in Huntersville, N.C., at ATD’s headquarters. Crawford said this allows everyone across the country to hear the same message.

Crawford said a survey of Tire Pros dealers found that they felt email was a more effective way to receive communications from the company instead of posting items online, which was a surprise. For this reason, the company plans to change its method of sending out messages to its dealers.

Fifty-five percent of Tire Pros dealers are visiting the company’s website daily, with another 25% visiting it on a weekly basis, according to the company.

The same survey revealed that slightly over 73% of Tire Pros dealers said the company’s exclusive promotions for driving traffic into its dealers’ stores was either meeting or exceeding its expectations. Crawford said the company wanted to increase this number.

Tire Pros dealers ranked marketing, advertising and co-op management by the marketing manager as the most important component they value in the Tire Pros program. This was followed by “consultative retail support by their area business manager,” Tire Pros exclusive consumer promotions and purchase incentive programs.

ATD sees steady growth in the influence the Internet is having on the tire-buying consumer. According to Brown, current trends indicate that 22% of tires could be purchased online by 2015, with another 38% researched online, but purchased in-store.

ATD is working closely with its Tire Pros dealers to help craft an e-commerce strategy that helps the dealer plan for and participate in this developing channel. (ATD defines an Internet purchase as one in which the consumer purchases the tire online with the payment through the website.)

ATD is urging its Tire Pros dealers to add a link to their individual websites for the ATD TireBuyer website. During the meeting, the dealers were shown numerous digital marketing programs and tracking systems they could use to upgrade their digital footprint within local market areas. The company told dealers this will increase their business from consumers who normally would not think to buy from them.

Next year, Tire Pros plans to hold its dealer conference Feb. 3-6 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nev.

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Dealer council concerns

Tire Pros dealers in each region have their own dealer council, where issues of importance are shared among the dealers. A council member then relays these issues to ATD.

The top concern among Tire Pros dealers has to do with health care and insurance issues.

“We are looking for alternatives to what we currently have” was the overriding theme.

The dealers also discussed the importance of a national advertising campaign that is affordable and making sure that dealers within the group are held accountable for following Tire Pros rules.

The group pointed to warranty paperwork that isn’t filled out properly. When that happens, the consumer has a bad experience with Tire Pros, no matter where they are in the country.

“We are an elite group of dealers and want to stay that way,” said one dealer.    ■

Tire Pros, Best Practices, Part I

Always properly answer the telephone and quote the customer the lowest price option for a tire. The key is to get the customer in the door. Tire Pros trainers say the “big box” dealers always follow this procedure and it works.

Tire Pros Best  Practices, Part 2

Perform vehicle inspections on every vehicle that comes to your dealership. Most importantly, always ask the customer if you can perform this service — and then, hopefully, “give them the good news.”

The Tire Pros trainers say customers like to hear that their vehicle is in good shape in most areas and will serve them well before your technicians perform necessary work.

Use a pre-printed form that shows what you’ve checked, and use “color codes” to show what is good (usually green); what will need repair at some point (usually yellow); and what needs repaired now (usually red).

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