K&M Tire is leveling up its distribution footprint and customer service capabilities as the company expands into new markets.
“Every year, we try to get a little bit better, (while) making sure we’re taking care of our customers,” Cheryl Gossard, president of the Delphos, Ohio-based distributor, told MTD during the company’s recent Dealer Conference and Trade Show in Atlantic City, N.J.
The event, K&M Tire’s first on the East Coast, drew more than 800 attendees from all over the United States. (Click here for photo galleries from the event.)
Gossard told MTD that K&M Tire expects to sign more customers in the western part of the country thanks to its recent acquisition of Point S USA’s 41,000-square-foot distribution center in Denver, Colo., a market that “we were growing toward out of our Kansas and Nebraska locations.”
As part of the deal, which was announced in November 2023, Point S also will use K&M Tire as its primary tire supplier in Colorado.
“We think we can begin signing new customers in the Denver area” and beyond, Gossard told MTD. “That’s what we’re looking to do.”
Meanwhile, K&M Tire continues to beef up its distribution capabilities in other markets.
The company opened a distribution center in Carlsbad, N.M., in January 2023.
In Minneapolis, Minn., it moved from an 80,000-square-foot warehouse to a 180,000-square-foot distribution center.
“We just moved our warehouse in the Cleveland, Ohio, area,” said Gossard. “That was a 30,000-square-foot (facility) and we moved to a 120,000-square-foot building.”
And K&M Tire moved to a larger distribution center in Wichita, Kan., “a few weeks ago. We went from 70,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet.”
Commenting on its inventory levels, K&M Tire is currently “in a good place” and is in “a much better spot” than it was 12 months ago, Gossard noted. “We know what to focus on.”
K&M Tire continues to invest in customer-facing personnel. “We’ve added regional program managers, or RPMS, who are on the outside, calling on dealers.”
In the past, this duty fell on “regional sales managers or outside salespeople and we expected them to be the experts on all (vendor) programs,” as well as K&M Tire’s in-house Mr. Tire associate dealer program.
“Now we have three RPMS in different regions who can help.”
There’s no substitute for face-to-face interactions with existing and potential customers, according to Gossard.
“There’s a lot of competition out there and we want to make sure our dealers know we’re here to support them and want them to be successful. If we can’t be there face-to-face, we can’t really see what’s going on, so it’s hard for us to make suggestions.”
To help ensure that its customers continue to receive the right products at the right time, K&M Tire is researching supply chain software that when implemented, “will make the (inventory management) less manual and more automated, so we can react more quickly.”
Once K&M Tire decides on a system, deployment will likely take “several months and hopefully by the summer, (customers) will see it’s made a difference,” said Gossard.
K&M also has rolled out “a huge enhancement” to its Weblink system that customers use to order tires and view inventory levels.
“We’ve been working on that for quite a while. Now they can look up staggered fitments and if a tire’s coming from another location,” customers can also see an order countdown timer informing them how much longer they have until they can place an order for next delivery.
“If they’re on a program with us – whether it’s a vendor program or our Mr. Tire program – there's a page that shows where they’re tracking for the quarter and year. All of our vendors have websites where (customers) can go and see that, but this is the one place where they can see everything.”
Another big push for K&M Tire in 2024 will be “leveling up all of our internal departments,” Gossard told MTD. “We want to make sure we’re taking care of our employees. Around the first of the year, we announced some additional PTO levels. We increased our tuition reimbursement.
“We’re also doing what we call ‘K&M On the Road,’ where we have a truck and a trailer” that’s equipped with various amenities.
“There’s a core group of us who will visit K&M locations. We’re grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, we’re handing out some door prizes and other gifts – just spending time with (employees) to make sure they understand that we appreciate what they do.”
The K&M On the Road truck and trailer visited four locations in Texas last month.
Gossard told MTD that K&M Tire “had a really good year” in 2023 and expects more of the same in 2024.
“We want to make sure we’re focused on our customers and trying to be the leading and most trusted provider of tires to them,” she said.