NORRISTOWN, Pa.-In a move to attract customers who don't normally frequent its certified auto centers, Goodyear said it will expand its ``Just Tires'' tires-only retail concept to more than 250 locations in the U.S. during the next several years. The tire maker detailed plans for the chain April 25 during the grand opening of 13 Just Tires outlets in the Philadelphia area. At the same time, Goodyear announced it was converting 31 company-owned stores in metropolitan Los Angeles to Just Tires locations during the next six to eight weeks.
Just Tires stores are aimed at ``time-pressed, value-conscious consumers who might never set foot in a traditional Goodyear retail store,'' said John Fiedler, the company's executive vice president of North American tires.
Unlike Goodyear's traditional retail stores, which offer full automotive repairs along with tires, Just Tires outlets provide only tires and tire-related services, such as mounting, wheel balancing and alignment.
The stores sell the Goodyear brand as well as the Hallmark associate-label line produced by Goodyear's Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. subsidiary.
Most of the planned stores, including those in Philadelphia, will be conversions of traditional Goodyear retail outlets into Just Tires locations, a company spokesman said.
In Los Angeles, Goodyear will convert a mix of its company-owned stores, including some operating under the Mark C. Bloome and Broadway names, to the Just Tires concept.
By July 1, when this conversion is scheduled to be completed, Goodyear will have 61 Just Tires stores nationwide, including three in Memphis, Tenn., and 14 in Chicago.
That number will grow to about 100 by the end of the year, following an additional expansion this fall in an unspecified East Coast city, Mr. Fiedler said. Future Just Tires sites will be in major metropolitan markets, he added.
Even with the announced conversions for 1994, the tire maker will continue to operate about 850 Goodyear certified auto centers.
Goodyear is committed to Just Tires as a separate retail format compatible with the firm's auto service centers, according to Mr. Fiedler.
``Our experience in two test markets has shown that Just Tires has gained customers and sales for Goodyear by attracting consumers who are unlikely to shop at our traditional retail stores,'' he said.
Goodyear introduced the Just Tires concept in 1990, opening four company-owned outlets in Memphis, Tenn. It added four more in Portland, Ore., but later closed them, saying that market ``is better suited to the more traditional retail approach through full-service tire and automotive centers.''
In 1992, Goodyear extended Just Tires into Chicago, converting 13 stores to the new format. It later built a 14th location.
In expanding Just Tires, Goodyear is not abandoning its traditional retail format. To the contrary, the company will continue to add Goodyear auto service centers where the format is appropriate, according to Ed Gallagher, vice president of retail stores. Goodyear also may explore other retail formats, he said.
Goodyear views Just Tires as a complementary retail approach to traditional Goodyear certified auto centers.
``The goal is not to siphon business away from the Goodyear retailer,'' said Vince Gregory, general manager for Just Tires. ``Our intent is to increase tire sales by tapping into consumer segments which we either penetrate weakly at this time or not at all.''
Just Tires will refer customers with automotive service needs to the remaining Goodyear stores in their area, Mr. Fiedler said.
Just Tires stores guarantee tire installation within 30 minutes, or customers receive a 20 percent refund on the purchase price.
In addition, if a consumer finds a lower price on the same tire within 30 days of purchase, the company will refund 125 percent of the difference.
Goodyear is highlighting these points-low price and quick service-in three television commercials and five radio ads promoting Just Tires.
By expanding the tires-only operation, Goodyear hopes to continue to increase its replacement market penetration.
While the company has picked up market share the past few years, Mr. Fiedler said Goodyear needs to see continued improvement to cover corporate expenses such as advertising, research and development, operation of the blimps and racing.
Although 25 percent of all Goodyear tires are sold through its certified auto centers, Mr. Fiedler doesn't think enough growth can come from this avenue.
Just Tires, he noted, sells more Goodyear-brand tires on a per-store basis than any other type of outlet.
``It's either do something like this or sign a warehouse club,'' he said. ``And we don't want to sign a warehouse club.''
Just Tires stores carry no Goodyear signage and feature green and yellow coloring vs. the corporate colors of blue and yellow.
Each store carries an inventory of about 2,500 tires. The typical Just Tires store will sell about 70 tires a day vs. a national average of 15 for a traditional Goodyear outlet, Mr. Fiedler said.
He added that Goodyear may someday offer a Just Tires franchise, after the program produces more proven results, but currently has no plans to do so.