It seems the media and the think tanks like to come up with clever names for different decades, eras and even generations. In the tire business, I've come up with a name that describes the current state of our industry. I call it the age of ``brand proliferation.''
Today's independent tire dealers carry an average of seven different brand names. Some carry more. That means when a customer walks in the door of the local tire dealership, he or she will be confronted with at least seven different brand options from which to choose.
Most brands offer a comprehensive product line, with tires that fit most every driver's needs. Yet, despite having multiple brands to choose from, tire dealers ultimately will sell those lines that are most profitable.
In fact, having too many brands can actually mean less profit for dealers.
Stocking seven different brands results in minimal inventory turns and can distort the dealer's bottom line, which could have a significant effect when trying to secure adequate financing from banks or tire suppliers.
Why then, do dealers feel the need to carry so many brands?
Perhaps it's a question of perception. Many feel compelled to carry more brands in a quest to provide customers with the widest selection.
Unfortunately, too many brands can lead to great confusion in the minds of many consumers.
When a customer goes shopping for tires at the local tire dealership, he or she may not be looking for a wide brand selection.
More likely, they are looking for advice on what to buy: ``What is the best tire for my Toyota, Buick or Ford?'' ``Can I afford these tires?'' ``Are these tires any good?'' And maybe, ``What kind of guarantee can I get?''
Based on the information you (the dealer) supply, the consumer makes his or her decision.
And whether you realize it or not, the customer's satisfaction with his or her tires is a direct reflection of the level of satisfaction they have with you.
In a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey, conducted on retailers across the nation, consumers rated ``independent tire dealers No. 1'' for customer satisfaction. This is nothing new to most of us. Today's independent tire dealers are successful because they've learned the secret.
We're not just selling tires, we're selling ourselves and our service.
People do business with people. It is you and your service then, and not the number of brands you carry, that ultimately leads to the sale of one tire over another.
To counteract the age of ``brand proliferation,'' I propose a new era. I call it the ``less equals more'' era. Less brands equals more profit.
To generate more profit, you need to form partnerships of trust and integrity with those manufacturers that can supply you with a profitable product line.
By focusing on these partnerships with key suppliers, you can ease the process of ordering, pricing and marketing, making it simpler to do business.
Carrying fewer tire brands also allows you to focus on those tire brands that are unquestionably more profitable.
In making decisions on which brands to carry, you should start by asking your supplier several critical questions:
``Why should I do business with you?''
``Is your program better than others.''
``What other value-added services will you bring to the partnership?''
By aligning themselves with committed partners-suppliers who offer comprehensive product lines, quality products and outstanding service-you can provide your customers with even better service. And at the same time, earn more profit for your dealership.
Remember, LESS EQUALS MORE.
Mr. Dorso is vice president of marketing and sales for Falken Tire Corp.