TORONTO-Although they were seeing red when it was first announced, Goodyear tire dealers in Canada can breathe a little easier. Though not yet judged a failure, the test marketing program in which Canadian Tire Corp. (CTC) introduced Goodyear-brand tires to some of its stores is far from a runaway success.
Blame it on customer loyalty-in this case, loyalty to CTC's own Motomaster private brand line.
With more than 400 stores, publicly held CTC is one of Canada's largest tire retailers.
Last May 1, at CTC's request, Goodyear Canada Inc. began selling four lines of tires through five CTC outlets in London, Ontario, including a ``retail-dominant'' warehouse-like store where CTC tests retailing concepts.
A spokesman for Etobicoke-based Goodyear Canada said the firm targeted the London market because it has a combination of company-owned, franchised and independent dealerships.
Dealers there were none too happy, some calling it ``a slap in the face of Goodyear dealers.''
Bruce Allen, CTC's divisional vice president of automotive, said it's ``still too early'' to draw conclusions about the project, but now admits customers seem lukewarm to having Goodyears on the shelf.
``We've had a mixed reaction....Our tire business is very good,'' he said, ``but our customers are very loyal'' to Motomaster.
While some test stores are selling ``some'' Goodyear tires, he noted ``some are selling none....It's not going gangbusters.''
The test initially involved Goodyear's Aquatred, Eagle GT+4, Invicta GS and Wrangler AT. However, Mr. Allen said the offering has been ``fine-tuned'' to focus on only one line-the Invicta GS.
He would not divulge any sales figures. Neither would Glenn Root, Goodyear Canada's manager, consumer tire marketing, who said the firm is still examining whether there have been incremental sales for Goodyear and CTC. He said the program has had ``no detrimental effect'' on Goodyear retailers.
Evaluating the Goodyear test is difficult, he said, because of CTC's decisions to test market some Michelin brands and switch to an everyday-low-price strategy.