AKRON - Land's End, L'eggs and Hanes had better make room on the information superhighway for a company well established on America's other roadways. In December, Goodyear became the first major tire maker to open an electronic store on CompuServe, an on-line subscription computer service connected to more than 2.5 million households.
Other tire makers and retailers will likely follow Goodyear's lead, according to company representatives. Michelin North America, for instance, will begin testing its own interactive marketing format on Prodigy, a spokesman said.
In addition, Troy, Mich.-based Kmart Corp. went on-line Dec. 12 with America Online as part of a test program offering Phoenix-area subscribers the ability to order automotive supplies, prescriptions, apparel and electronics. Orders are delivered through an agreement with Shoppers Express, a delivery service, a Kmart spokeswoman said.
Goodyear's CompuServe service, which offers on-line information on products and dealer locations, is part of the increasingly popular electronic shopping network.
``Changing consumer needs and wants are driving this evolution into the fast-growing computer age,'' said Barry Robbins, Goodyear vice president of marketing. ``Computers increase consumers' comfort and are more convenient because shoppers can tour the electronic mall 24 hours a day from their own homes.''
CompuServe subscribers who type ``Go Goodyear'' on their computers can access company information, a racing schedule and a history of the Goodyear blimp with its current schedule of appearances, the company said.
But the meat of the service is its interactive product guide, which recommends two tires that best fit a member's vehicle and a personalized list of tire traits.
Unlike some other electronic stores, consumers are not able to purchase tires through the service. Instead, members can access a list of Goodyear company-owned and franchised locations in their area. Retailers who participate in the 1-800 Goodyear outlet referral program are also on-line.
``This gives you a more educated consumer when they walk in the store,'' a company spokesman said.
The service also allows consumers to contact Goodyear directly, placing shoppers on an electronic mailing list that will notify them of new products and coupon offers.
To announce its arrival on the network Goodyear placed an ad in the January issue of CompuServe and is hosting a trivia contest, winners of which can receive sets of Aquatreds or a ride on the Goodyear blimp.
Whether the shopping networks will become the tire industry's next retail battleground remains to be seen.
``Marketing is constantly evolving,'' a Michelin spokesman said. ``We've all heard of the future of the 500-channel universe. Clearly, consumer interaction is going to be an element of this universe.''
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Kumho U.S.A. Inc. said they have no immediate plans for a similar program, while Dunlop Tire Corp. said it is investigating the nature and extent of a future on-line service.