Professional focus, investing in growth
Communication was a key theme at the American Tire Distributors (ATD) Tire Pros National Business Conference March 18-21, 2012, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Tire Pros National Council Chairman Tom Ceniglis, president of Tom’s Tire Pros, Abilene, Texas, told the general session about upgrades to Tire Pros online presence (www.tirepros.com) that were based on dealer feedback.
“One of our biggest problems for a long time was communication,” said Ceniglis. “Now our landing page for Tire Pros online gives you everything you need to know. If you want to find something out, you just log-on to your account and if there’s something new, it’s right there on the landing page. I really believe that we’ve taken our communication to a higher level than it’s ever been.”
Ceniglis also addressed vehicle inspection sheets, which haven’t always been consistent from store to store. Now all Tire Pros dealers can utilize a new standardized vehicle inspection sheet.
At the 2011 Tire Pros National Business Conference, there were 179 attendees. Dan Brown, executive vice president of sales for ATD, announced that the 2012 event set a record. “This is the largest gathering of Tire Pros dealers in the history of the franchise,” said Brown. “There are 265 of the industry’s finest sitting here today.”
The total number of Tire Pros retail franchises have grown considerably since ATD bought Tire Pros. The Tire Pros program, along with AM-PAC Tire Distributors Inc., was purchased by ATD from Itochu Corp. in December 2008. Today there are 272 individual Tire Pros franchisees representing 348 locations.
Brown discussed upgrades to Tire Pros online, including a central communication link with sections on marketing, a business center, an ad center, training, an operations manual and a dealer hub.
He also covered results from a dealer survey conducted by ATD in early March. The survey revealed that 96% of dealers feel ATD is meeting or exceeding their expectations.
Tire Pros dealers also are becoming more Web savvy, with 68% reporting they regularly visit Tire Pros Online.
Brown said that in 2011, 151 dealers joined the network, for a total now of 462 retail points of sales. ATD added members from six new states in 2011, and Tire Pros locations can now be found in 40 states. Brown said dealers from 38 of those states were attending the meeting.
Ed Mangola, vice president of marketing, said that ATD is expanding advertising into 20 new markets in 2012. Branding initiatives are an important part of the Tire Pros franchise program and will include billboards and print ads. There will be 12 national promotions this year.
Dave Crawford, Tire Pros vice president of operations and training, outlined 2012 objectives including branding and training initiatives. The underlying platform for these initiatives is a Tire Pros focus on professionalism. Crawford said that branding is the foundation of professionalism, and image is first and foremost.
Crawford also discussed the Tire Pros credit card program, which will feature an online quick-screen function that launched May 1. He said with the quick screen, franchisees can get pre-approval for any customer who wants the card, which avoids having to tell the customer they were turned down.
Crawford also covered the group’s Quick Bay program that guarantees tire installation in 59 minutes or less. Quick Bay offers a 30-day ride guarantee and exclusive nationwide roadside assistance and towing. The program also stresses ATD’s focus on professionalism.
Wheeling and dealing
David Insull, director of wheel procurement and marketing, and Brian Moyer, director of wheel sales, outlined ATD’s new marketing alliance with DUB Publishing LLC. The alliance was announced at the 2011 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, Nev. The marketing plan includes the DUB Garage Dealer Program with proprietary wheel brands.
Myles Kovacs, president of DUB, explained that the name of his celebrity car magazine, which is popular with the Latino and African American demographic, stands for “Double Dime,” slang for 20-inch wheels.
Kovacs said the 2012 Tire Pros Wheel Program is the result of feedback from Tire Pros Dealer Councils. It will include a wheel volume rebate, Tire Pros branded POS materials, national pricing, an exclusive wheel display program and wheel training at the online Tire Pros University training program.
Bill Berry, CEO and president, said ATD saw 2011 record sales of above $3 billion.
“The importance of that number is it gives us the ability to continue to invest and reinvest in the Tire Pros program,” Berry said.
In 2011 ATD opened eight distribution centers in new markets, and Berry said ATD’s goal is to open 12 new distribution centers, one a month, by January, 2013.
“One of the challenges that we face over the next five years is relevancy,” he explained. “We’ve got to remain relevant in a world that’s changing far faster that I could have imagined a few years ago. Working together will make this a strategic partnership that can last.” ■