ST. GABRIEL, La.-Glen Yoes of Consolidated Tire & Oil in St. Gabriel first heard about Michelin Americas Small Tires' plans for a new retail concept for independent tire dealers last May from his regional sales reps. Less than a year later, his dealership is a key player in the New Orleans pilot of MAST's new Alliance program, which seeks to partner with dealers to help them sell more of the company's tires while improving their overall profitability.
Two of Consolidated Tires' three retail locations, which do business as Premier Tire, are Alliance participants. As such, they have added the name, ``Michelin Americas Tire Center,'' to their banners, painted and carpeted their locations to reflect the program's blue-and-gray color scheme and begun offering MAST tires as their primary product lines.
In addition, Consolidated Tire's wholesale operation serves as the program's local distributor.
``What appeared to be the Alliance program fit into what our (wholesale) business plan was,'' said Mr. Yoes, who owns the dealership along with his brother, Barry Yoes, and family friend, Gus Yard. That plan, he said, is for Consolidated Tire to be a full service distributor to its customers, providing them with the correct products at the ``correct'' prices.
The Alliance program, Mr. Yoes added, ``gave us the capability to narrow suppliers to one manufacturer to cover all price points needed in the marketplace.''
The New Orleans pilot has 13 participating retail stores, most being single-location independent dealerships, Mr. Yoes said.
In addition to refurbishing their stores, participating dealerships committed to buying 75 percent of their tires from MAST, he said. In most cases, those tires replaced private brand lines in their stores.
Together the group placed a joint ad in the March 12 edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune announcing the grand opening of the new retail concept.
Mr. Yoes sees the program helping dealers simplify the way they go to market by allowing them more time to focus on selling tires and running their dealerships more effectively. It also will save them money, he said, through joint advertising.
MAST will supply participating dealerships and distributors with a multi-segment product screen delivered in single trailer loads. Dealers can order tires they need with one phone call and will receive only one invoice.
With Michelin supplying its multibrand tire lines from a single warehouse, Mr. Yoes said he hopes to achieve just-in-time delivery with participating dealerships, giving them improved fill rates and lower costs as a result of having to inventory fewer tires.
Mr. Yoes thinks a major benefit of the Alliance program will be the exposure participating dealers receive through their association with Michelin and the excellent reputation of its products.
Yet they still get to keep their own identity as an independent tire dealer, he said, adding:
``The hope is the general public-when they see a Michelin Americas Tire Center-will see it as a major organization locally and independently owned.''
Three days into the program, Mr. Yoes already sees signs of this benefit. MAST's Kleber brand is selling ``extrememly well,'' he said. ``The association to Michelin seems to have some credence in the customer's mind.''
Mr. Yoes said the program's most refreshing aspect is MAST's support for the independent dealer.
And while the program's benefits are important, he said, perhaps more significantly, it's the revitalization of a manufacturer being truly interested in its dealers.