The tire industry has changed greatly over the past number of years. Today the emphasis is on service. The tire dealer has become a tire specialist. Tire construction, vehicle design, highway driving and operating economy have all combined to make tire merchandising an extremely complicated and highly exacting undertaking-calling for correct selection of the product and for skilled fitting, balancing and alignment, followed up by qualified, periodic maintenance throughout the tire's service life.
On both sides of the Atlantic, various forms of tire selling have been tried with varying degrees of success or failure.
In the face of our changing market, it is the independent tire specialist who seems best able to succeed. Unlike many other retailers, the tire specialist has one important factor in his favor-in linking the tire user to the manufacturer, he not only sells the product, he must also service it.
It is this servicing aspect that distinguishes the retail tire business from other retail activities and which will eventually assure dealers' success in a marketplace obsessed with mass production, discount selling and self-service outlets.
Service is now the name of the game, and nothing can be more significant to the operation of your business.
As a tire specialist, the decision as to whether you should branch out into other products or services is essential. In this respect, the need to concentrate on service is of the utmost importance. Retreading, repairing, tire maintenance, brake service, wheel balancing and alignment are all operations that provide the technical service to support the merchandise the dealership offers.
While being a complete car-care center may create more traffic, it may not be as compatible with your tire business as you think. It just might be better to leave that type of business to Mr. Goodwrench. You may find that you will be better off doing what you are doing best-retreading and repairing tires, servicing them etc.-and doing more of it.
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Goodyear have seen the light with their ``tires only'' operations, a step in the right direction. Retailing is going back to specialization instead of the declining department store practice of having something for everybody.
The lack of forgiveness on the part of the radial represents an excellent opportunity for the specialist to display his professionalism and this means more business.
Large sums have been spent by some tire specialists in the installation of sophisticated equipment for tire servicing, in modernizing their premises and in providing well-trained, skilled personnel to assure the user of efficient and economical service.
Of course, as equipment costs continue to increase, sophisticated, labor-saving equipment may be somewhat more costly on a per unit basis, but it will lead to reduced adjustments as well as less down time to the customer.
The replacement market is also on the move as it must gear itself to the rapid evolution in technology and consumer needs. The retreaded tire, as an important part of the replacement market, must take heed of this transformation and keep in step with changing profiles, tread designs and the proliferation of tire sizes.
The medium truck sector was a little behind in performance needs for a period of time compared with the very rapid evolution in vehicle design. Structural weaknesses were brought to light during initial inspection for retreading and in service. This created a number of technical headaches for retreaders and a number of problems for the commercial user.
But most tire manufacturers were quick off the mark in effecting structural modifications, and we now have products that should restore retreadability.
Retreading, especially for the commercial user, has become more important than ever.
Hard hit by fiscal pressure and rising operating costs, the trucker is continually on the lookout for ways and means of saving money. In fact, it is a necessity today.
Retreading is the bread and butter for the independent tire specialist, and he still controls a major share of that market. Some tire manufacturers seeking to extend their scope and market penetration will operate their own facilities, and this has sometimes been a problem in the past. The manufacturer, however, is primarily interested in producing and selling new tires, whereas retreading represents a means to an end.
Over the years, the number of tire-manufacturer-owned shops has been as variable as the weather, increasing one year and decreasing the next.
The really successful tire specialist has been, and will continue to be, the one who accurately evaluates and serves the needs and desires of his accounts and is willing to take risks, willing to be innovative and is willing to offer the user something different.
So look for new ideas, something that will make your place of business, your product line, your service and advertising promotions different and more attractive to the consumer than that of your competitor.
When your retreaded tire is distinguishable from your competitors' by only a minimum of detailing and a few dollars on the price tag, your customer service and service reputation become critical discriminators.
In the long run, the most important single factor affecting business performance is the quality of its products and services relative to those of its competitors.
Make certain no competitor has an edge on product, service or employee training; make certain yours is the best in your market regardless of size-and capitalize on it by telling the public about it.