RIVIERA BEACH, Fla.-Tire Kingdom is making its first move beyond the Florida market with the planned construction of four stores in Charlotte, N.C., later this year. Charlotte is home to a number of large tire retail chains, discount merchandisers and warehouse clubs, so some dealers aren't too concerned about yet another price competitor.
Tire Kingdom is Florida's largest independent tire retailer, and it has cultivated a price-aggressive reputation in the fiercely competitive market. But growth in the Florida market has slowed, President Chuck Curcio said.
The dealership determined that Charlotte is a growing market and, from a geographic standpoint, a good distribution area to enable future expansion in the Southeast, he said.
Despite the sluggish home market, Tire Kingdom, which operates 139 outlets, intends to add 24 stores this year to ``backfill'' certain areas in Florida. However, Mr. Curcio declined to discuss his other expansion plans.
In Charlotte, Tire Kingdom expects to open the first four stores at the same time in late summer or early fall. The stores will sport a new ``castle'' design, to which Tire Kingdom hopes to eventually convert most of its existing stores.
Mr. Curcio said he had not decided if the dealership will pursue its low-pricing strategy in Charlotte.
Whatever strategy Tire Kingdom takes, independent dealers based in Charlotte don't seem too concerned. Probably since they've been subjected to earlier arrivals of national chains.
``All the other majors are here,'' said Larry Griffin of Griffin Brothers Tire Sales Inc., reacting to the escalating competition. ``I don't like to see it, but it's going to happen.''
Griffin Brothers' third store is due to open next spring near a proposed Tire Kingdom store, but the close proximity won't change the dealership's plans, he said, noting his firm offers more service and commercial business than Tire Kingdom.
The service-end of the business is also the competitive edge for Hall's Tire Co. Inc., said owner Albert Hall, who operates four stores in Charlotte and eight others around the state.
Mr. Hall said he has ``all kinds of ways to fight them,'' that could include organizing a local dealer buying group.