Big O Tires is ‘Building for Success’

March 22, 2024

TBC Corp.’s Big O Tires recently launched a new training program and more during its annual conference in New Orleans, La. 

Big O Tire dealers and partners gathered for a two-day event featuring a general session where sales growth and numbers were discussed, as well as a trade show with multiple exhibitors and breakout sessions to discuss upcoming dealer resources.  

2023 growth  

Gary Skidmore, senior vice president and general manager for Big O Tires, took the stage at the general session and went over some 2023 Big O Tires franchise numbers.  

“In 2023, we had average store sales of more than $2.7 million and total chain store sales over $1.28 billion dollars,” said Skidmore.  

Retail sales were up more than 7% compared to the previous year and gross profit was up over 10%, he told attendees. 

“More than 40% of our stores had a double-digit retail increase and 80% had an increase in sales in 2023. Both our daily average car count and tire units increased as our team serviced almost 3.9 million cars and sold almost 3.2 million tires.”  

Switching gears to franchisee expansion, Skidmore said most growth within Big O Tires last year came from existing franchisees.  

However, there were two new franchises that joined – one in Snyder, Texas, and another in northern California. 

Today, Big O Tires has roughly 470 locations and about 180 franchisees.  

Patricia Del Aguila, vice president of market merchandising for Big O Tires, said that there is room for growth in tire unit sales – specifically for the Big Foot A/T II and the Legacy All-Season Plus tires – both of which were originally released in 2022.  

Last year, Big O Tire stores went from selling 250,000 units to 350,000 units of the Big Foot A/T II.  For the Legacy All-Season Plus, the units sold during 2023 also went from 250,000 units to 350,000 units.  

The tires made up 17% of all tire units shipped to Big O locations last year and Del Aguila said Big O Tires wants to increase that to 20% in 2024.  

She also revealed that Big O Tires is working with Nitto Tire U.S.A and Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp., which manufactures the tires, on the development of 12 new Big Foot A/T II (Nitto) tire sizes and 16 new Legacy All-Season Plus (Toyo) tire sizes. These sizes are set to be rolled out in 2025.  

Listening to franchisees 

Big O Tires also showcased its new training program for its franchisee members, Today’s Class.  

Today's Class will roll out on April 1 and is a learning management system that can be used on a cellphone, laptop or tablet.  

“It’s basically micro-learning, so it’s designed for today's audience," according to Skidmore.  

“You can learn in small bursts instead of having to sit through a 40-minute class. However, if you want to take longer classes, they’re certainly available.”  

The classes can be tweaked based on job position too, so technicians and service writers will have training questions tailored to their roles, he noted. 

Darrell Jackson, senior manager of franchise learning and development for Big O, said the program costs $150 per store, per month. With that $150 fee, Big O Tires franchisees can sign up as many employees at their dealership as they want.  

To help with this cost, Jackson says Big O Tires will rebate franchisees $150 per month if their participation rate is over 30%.  

Big O Tires’ partnership with Today’s Class came about in response to a 2022 franchise survey that Big O Tires officials sent out to members. 

Once a Big O Tires franchisee pays for Today’s Class and registers their employees, the employees can download the app, answer four questions per day and then move on.  

After employees answer the questions, employees receive the correct answers and other feedback. 

This has created a healthy competition in some of the pilot stores that have launched Today's Class, said Jackson, who added that Big O Tires franchisees have told him that all their employees share their training score at the beginning of each day. 

In order to get Big O Tires franchisee members ready for the roll-out of Today’s Class, Big O Tires will hold 15 webinars starting in April and going through the end of May. The webinars will focus on how to navigate the app. 

Another initiative that Big O Tires is working on for its franchisee members is an updated point-of-sales (POS) system. 

Big O Tires has a contract with Teckmetric, an auto repair shop management software company, and is working on releasing a new system soon.  

“It is a POS system that’s developed with (Tekmetric’s) off-the-shelf version and then an enhanced version for Big O, so it will be a proprietary system just for Big O,” said Skidmore.  

“We have to embrace technology,” Jackson told conference attendees.    

Rolling forward 

“We have to make sure we have the right product in the right place,” said Skidmore during the conference. 

He said one of Big O Tires' strengths is the backing of a big corporation like TBC Corp. 

“This gives us good products and good prices on those products. But we still have to make sure we have those products in stock” at the right distribution centers. 

“Our stores are basically serviced out of 22 (distribution centers), so if we have all the products in the wrong (warehouse), it doesn’t matter how much of it you have. It has to be at the correct distribution center and that has been our most ongoing challenge.” 

Skidmore said that Big O Tires follows a dual growth plan: same-store growth and new store growth. 

“We have a mix of our existing franchisees with single stores, what I would call middle-multi-stores, and we have large corporations. We want to continue growing the people who are with us and grow with outside people, as well.” 

Skidmore said Big O Tires generally has a 70% existing franchisee growth and 30% new franchisee growth.  

When it comes to deciding where to expand, he says Big O Tires looks at three different types of markets. 

The first is to fill in a market where Big O has a strong presence, but there are still pockets where locations could be added.  

“This is our sweet spot because we already have a strong brand presence in our infill markets,” he says. 

The next is adjacent markets.  

“These markets have some Big O stores and some brand presence, but there’s still a lot of opportunity there,” continued Skidmore. 

Finally, Big O Tires considers new markets that have similar demographics compared to where other Big O Tires stores are located, which would result in “us moving in and being successful in that market,” said Skidmore.  

“As we drive increased sales, we also want to make sure our franchisees have the ability to pay their bills. So we want to make sure we focus on the growth profit of business so that they can be successful.”  

Recognizing individuals  

During the conference’s general session, Big O Tires recognized three individuals with its  Standing O Award and inducted a longtime Big O Tires franchisee, Scott Koldenhoven, into the Big O Tires Hall of Fame.  

The Standing O Award recognizes franchisees and corporate associates for going above and beyond to support Big O Tires. Winners of the award included Matt Story, Jose Perez and Jason Kassing.  

About the Author

Madison Gehring | Associate Editor

Madison Gehring is Modern Tire Dealer's associate editor. A graduate of Ohio State University, Gehring holds a bachelors degree in journalism. During her time at Ohio State, she wrote for the university's student-run newspaper, The Lantern, and interned at CityScene Media Group in Columbus, Ohio.

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