Tire Pros aims for 700 stores in 2015
Twenty-three people were dedicated to the Tire Pros franchise program of American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) in 2009. Today, 60 professionals provide marketing, retail, business analysis, administrative and training support to dealers.
“We have a program that is very important to independent tire dealers in terms of the added resources it brings,” Tire Pros President Dan Brown told Modern Tire Dealer at the 2015 Tire Pros National Dealer Business Conference in Orlando, Fla., in January. “We believe it does tend to level the playing field. Now they’ve got some strong partnerships on their side of the field to help balance what in some cases can be an overpowering competitor.”
Manny Geno is the third generation to own Geno’s Tire and Alignment Inc., which does business as Geno’s Tire Pros in Booneville, Miss. He took over the store in 2006 and joined Tire Pros in 2008.
“Tire Pros gives you a lot of tools. Marketing and advertising are the most important,” he said. “We’re rural but we like to be leading edge in our market. We were the first in our market to have a website and that’s because of Tire Pros.” Every year since joining Tire Pros sales have gotten better with last year being the “best year ever” for his six-bay store.
Said Brown, “I think most of the dealers would concur that they’ve got a massive toolbox now. They know they aren’t fighting the fight alone. They’ve got 60 folks who are thinking of nothing but retail and helping identify ways to improve their sales and profitability right alongside them each and every day.”
75 new stores in 2014
Tire Pros grew by 75 stores to end 2014 with 635 locations. Of the 460 owners who are part of the franchise, 86 operate multiple locations and 261 have a single store. Increasing the number of stores and level of consumer awareness are key objectives in 2015, according Brown. “We’d like to add approximately 100 stores and exit the year north of 700. That objective helps feed the second objective to build consumer awareness for the Tire Pros brand.” Brown and other executives presented marketing, training and vendor-related initiatives at the dealer meeting.
National advertising program
Tire Pros plans to build a national consumer advertising program around partnerships with major collegiate athletic conferences across the country. B. Quick Chadwick, director of marketing for Tire Pros, said the organization is currently negotiating with the Big 12 Conference, Big Ten Conference, Southeastern Conference, Pac-12 Conference, Mountain West Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Last year, Tire Pros was the official tire retailer of ACC football.
ATD will contribute $1 million to fund the advertising program in 2015. The total advertising spend could approach $1.75 million depending on dealers’ contributions. Tire Pros is asking dealers to contribute $100 per month per store.
21st century marketing channels
Tire Pros introduced several vendors that deliver marketing messages through digital channels. One is the Weather Co., owner of the Weather Channel cable and satellite television channel. The Weather Co. offers dealers an opportunity to market to people who are checking the weather via their mobile device or the Weather Channel website.
“We’ve got a relationship that offers local geo-target premium ad placement across multiple platforms,” said Chadwick. Geo-targeting is the practice of delivering content to a user’s device based on his or her location.
Tire Pros also partnered with Pandora Media Inc. to provide Pandora Radio, a music streaming and automated music recommendation service. Chadwick said Pandora gives dealers the opportunity to geo-target ads to listeners across desktops or mobile devices. “It’s not advertising on the radio, it’s advertising on the screen.”
Also new is My Car Care Rewards, a customizable consumer loyalty program. Howard and Pat Fleischmann and Kim Sigman, partners at Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair based in Phoenix, Ariz., worked with the My Car Care Rewards vendor to develop the program for Tire Pros dealers.
These initiatives bring Tire Pros into the 21st century when it comes to marketing, according to Chadwick. “The common thread is this is 21st century marketing that is fully trackable so we can monitor how well a dealers’ investment is driving traffic.”
Laura Strickland, owner of Royal Tire Inc., which does business as Royal Tire and Lube Auto Service Center in Sylacauga, Ala., values the network opportunities she has as a Tire Pros dealer. “We’re constantly looking for ways to differentiate from our competitors. Technology vendors appeal to us because that helps us stay one step ahead.” She and her brother Scott Roberson are third-generation owners of their six-bay store.
More support from vendors
Sixty companies displayed products and offered demonstrations during the meeting’s vendor fair. Tire Pros will be pushing for more support from its affiliated vendors in 2015, according to Wes Stephenson, vice president of operations. He says Tire Pros’ relationship with ATD brings many vendor relationships to dealers they could not get on their own.
“By the power and size of ATD, plus the size of Tire Pros, we’re looking to bring better value to affiliate vendor programs that give dealers operational efficiencies.” In addition to cost savings, vendors can bring dealers options for reaching out to customers in unique ways and tools for TPMS diagnosis and other aspects of the service side of their business.
New training in selling skills
Tire Pros is adding a training component for in-store sales staff called Professional Retail Operations and Sales or PROS. The PROS training will focus on wheel sales, tire protection plans and other counter sales techniques. Phone skills were a training focus in 2014 and will continue in 2015, according to Brown. “We still see a huge opportunity for the independent to improve the skills of the sales associates in selling the visit and transferring that phone call to an in-store visit.”
There also will be more training sessions for dealers on business skills relating to store ownership. Three sessions will be held at Tire Pros’ Huntersville, N.C., headquarters and six sessions will be held at regional locations throughout the year.
Ninety-four percent of dealers said Tire Pros met or exceeded their expectations in the organization’s annual customer satisfaction survey. “That high satisfaction level is across the board but more than anything else it is for the marketing assistance we provide,” said Stephenson. He aims to boost dealers’ satisfaction ratings through additional training programs.
“In 2015 we want to build up the enthusiasm for the store support side that we bring to the table. In doing that, we would love to be known as the training company, the franchise company that really provides operational training that makes the sales people, the managers and the service techs among the best in the industry because that kind of performance brings greater business.” ■