Today's young independent tire dealers often do business in ways that would seem incredible to their predecessors of only a decade or two ago. Nobody knows this better than D.D. Coley, president of Consumer Tire Inc., a two-store retail operation in Mentor and Euclid, Ohio.
Since taking over management of the firm from her father eight years ago, Ms. Coley has presided over a program of modernization and operational change that still brings howls of disagreement from her retired parent.
``But my brothers and I bought dad out. So we make the decisions now,'' she said.
Ms. Coley credits her father with ``good business sense'' and for having given his four children thorough training in the operation of a retail tire business. ``But he backed out of management more than 10 years ago and just isn't aware of the changes that have come into the field in that time,'' she explained.
Her father, John Kantz, 63, started his career as a boy working for his father who owned a retread business serving the Pennsylvania coal fields. He worked for Carrol Tire Co. in Cleveland before teaming up with Robert Watson to start Consumer Tire in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid in 1962. Mr. Watson is still a stockholder and service department manager of the firm's Euclid store.
Ms. Coley said her father has fond memories of the days when he sold tires unmounted with a gross profit of up to 50 percent.
``He doesn't understand why you have to carry major brands,'' she said. ``He was real big with Dean Tire, and then with just Goodyear. He used to deal a lot with private (brand) manufacturers and he doesn't understand why we can't still do that and make the big gross margins that he used to get. He didn't have Kmarts and Wal-Marts and wholesale clubs competing with him.''
But computerization is the biggest change at Consumer Tire, she said. ``We use computers for everything-point of sale, inventory, ordering.''
Ms. Coley and her brothers also are a lot more number-oriented than their dad was. ``You have to be because one flip one month can cost you a whole year,'' she said.
Ms. Coley said the enormous proliferation of tire types, sizes and speed ratings is another thing that's different from her father's day.
``I remember when we had one sheet of paper that listed all of the tires we owned,'' she said. ``It was underneath the counter under plastic. There were maybe 40 sizes and now there are hundreds.''
Another thing that perplexes her father, Ms. Coley said, is the way today's tire salesmen talk to customers about tires.
``Today, people know more about their cars,'' she said. ``They don't just walk in, hand you their keys and say `put on whatever I need.' They're educated and they want to know the advantages, disadvantages and cost effectiveness of the tires they're buying.
``There are still people who don't understand why they need a speed- rated tire. But in general, people are a lot smarter and they demand more information,'' she said.
``And my dad hardly dealt with women. Men bought the tires then. Now, women are at least half of our clientele. More women make the phone calls. A lot of women bring the cars in. They own their own cars. They own businesses. There are a lot of single moms out there.''
Asked if being a woman helps in doing business with women, she said, ``I think so. I have lots of women customers who ask for me specifically and many say its nice talking to a girl because they don't feel pressured, or `you talk the same language I do.' ''
Ms. Coley said she believes dealers are more willing to join dealer associations and co-ops today than before.
``To my father other dealers were competitors,'' she said. ``You didn't talk to them or associate with them. You didn't share what you were doing. Now that has changed. I belong to the Cleveland (Tire Dealers Association) and we sit down and share our opinions. And with Metro 25 we sit down and share methods that will help us in our business. It's like a team effort.''
Ms. Coley said she and her brothers, Al Almasi, Bruce Kantz and Dave Kantz, also belong to the Ohio Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association and the NTDRA.