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MTD 100 exclusive! Les Schwab CEO Borgman discusses tire aging, other hot topics

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MTD 100 exclusive! Les Schwab CEO Borgman discusses tire aging, other hot topics

Throughout the month of July, will present exclusive interviews with executives from some of the "top five" independent tire store chains on the 2009 Modern Tire Dealer 100.

Les Schwab died in 2007, but the company that bears his name lives by the same philosophies he advocated. "We pay enormous respect to everything Les developed," says Dick Borgman, CEO of Les Schwab Tire Centers. "The fundamentals he developed got us this far and they make sense for the future."

Now based in Bend, Ore., Les Schwab Tire Centers has increased its store count nearly 20% in the last five years. The 353-store dealership posted sales of more than $1.6 billion in 2008. It's the third largest independent tire store chain in the U.S., according to the 2009 Modern Tire Dealer 2009.

In this exclusive interview with MTD Editor Bob Ulrich, Borgman discusses expansion plans and other topics.

MTD: What is your store count? Do you plan to open more stores this year?

Borgman: We currently have 353 company-owned stores and 70 member-dealer stores. We hope to open five to seven new ones this year, although that depends a lot on the timing of the building approval process.

MTD: How would you describe your overall sales in May and June compared to last year at the same time?

Borgman: Sales for May were a little soft, but we have been improving so far.

MTD: Tire aging is a hot-button issue. What is your company's position on tire aging?

Borgman: On tire aging, we are working with the Tire Industry Association to initiate a discussion about overall tire maintenance and safety, of which tire aging is only one factor.

MTD: What's the biggest challenge facing Les Schwab Tire Centers?

Borgman: Probably the biggest challenge we face right now is keeping up with all of the regulations affecting our business. Much of the regulations relates to the development of new stores, but more recently, industry-related proposals such as tire aging, rolling resistance and import restrictions all require more effort.

On the issue of import restrictions, Borgman says "consumers are entitled to choices. Without Chinese and other foreign brand suppliers, we could not fill our showrooms with private brand products or satisfy consumer demand."

Stay tuned to for interviews with executives from other independent tire store chains that have risen to the top of the 2009 Modern Tire Dealer 100, which can be seen in the July 2009 issue of MTD, available now!

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