LEAVITTSBURG, Ohio-Gumbo and Buck-shot mudders. Super Swamper. The names may sound like some exotic Cajun delicacies, but they're actually among the myriad off-road light truck tires that are probably tearing up turf somewhere right now.
When it comes to marketing these big, knobby beasts-and their dwarf cousins of the lawn/garden variety-independent dealers may be missing out on a lot of the specialty tire action.
Sales opportunities abound, believes James G. Pearl, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Denman Tire Corp., a longtime manufacturer of tires for the specialty niche.
The Leavittsburg company is, happily, having a hard time keeping up with increased demand, brought on, in part, by protracted strikes by United Rubber Workers union members against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. tire plants.
Denman got super-swamped with business, which ``was great for us,'' Mr. Pearl said, ``but then our fill rate started to drop and we couldn't make enough tires fast enough.''
Denman is expanding capacity, will be installing more tire molds soon, and has ``pretty much caught up'' on road grader and loader tires, he said. ``It's a constant struggle, but every month we set a production-and sales-record!''
Most of the tire maker's increased capacity is going to private branded bias light truck tires.
Echoing what some private brand marketers and dealers told TIRE BUSINESS, Mr. Pearl doesn't foresee any decline in enthusiasts' desire for the off-road tires fitting the look-and trucks-of what he fondly calls ``That macho cowboy thing.''
The company developed and just completed a new line of light truck radials for California-based Dick Cepek Inc. and a line of ``Super Swampers'' now being marketed by private brander Interco Tire Corp. in Rayne, La. Both companies specialize in tires sought by off-roaders.
Both lines ``seem to be doing very well,'' Mr. Pearl said, with very few problems and ``excellent'' customer acceptance. ``So it looks like we hit a homerun. . . .''
Denman also will soon complete development on its new Coyote light truck brand, with two sizes finished and three more to come within the next year.
The line is targeted at the customer Mr. Pearl describes as a ``pretender off-roader''-a city dweller who doesn't go off-road but still wants the look of those ``big knobby tires'' on his or her truck.
Unlike the typical off-road variety, theCoyote features a less-aggressive tread design that gives an owner good-wearing tires and a smooth ride without the noise and bounce of their off-road siblings.
For dealerships trying to compete in the passenger/light truck radial market-``where everybody's got 'em and is beating each other's heads in''-Mr. Pearl said he continually tells dealers to look to ``specialty'' tires.
That term covers a wide range of applications, from boat trailers and lawn/garden tractors, to all-terrain vehicles.
``You don't need to sell 500 of them to make $500,'' he said. ``You only need to sell five!''
True, the specialty market's smaller-but there's fewer places handling them, he noted. And dealers may not fully realize the potential for profits that lies in that market.
``It doesn't have to be a huge market for them to sell 40 to 50 of these a month and make a hundred or so bucks on them,'' Mr. Pearl said.
``A lot of dealers get into their mind `volume,' because of their passenger/light truck business, and figure they can only sell 50 specialty tires.*.*.*(But) there's a zillion of those Bobcats and ditch witches, and tractors mowing along the highway and on golf courses.
``. . . We always say our perfect customer is a guy driving a dump truck with bias tires on it, pulling a trailer with trailer tires, with a backhoe on it. How many of those guys are running around everywhere? Drive down the highway and sometimes you'll see five at a time.''
Mr. Pearl advises dealers: ``If you see those in your marketplace, someone is supplying them.''
Then, he cited an old Denman advertisement targeted at wholesalers and independent dealers: ``The road to greater profits isn't always paved.''