As if the retail tire business weren't competitive enough, independent tire dealers must now keep a watchful eye on two retailing giants-both of which are gearing up for major assaults on North America's tire and automotive service markets. Both Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Penske Corp., which recently purchased approximately 860 former Kmart Corp. auto centers, plan to dramatically step up their tire and auto service operations-possibly at the independent dealer's expense.
And, judging from public pronouncements of these companies, dealers could find themselves facing a new and more formidable breed of competitor, one combining the immense buying and marketing clout of the mass merchandiser with the knowledgeable, personalized customer service that is the hallmark of the independent tire dealer.
Sears, already the largest retailer of tires in the U.S., is merging operations of its Sears Auto Center outlets with those of the company's former Tire America and National Tire Warehouse subsidiaries to create a unified, 1,042-store division whose ``single-minded objective'' is to become the ``best tire and battery business in the U.S.''
Meanwhile, transportation magnate Roger S. Penske Sr., chairman, president and CEO of Detroit-based Penske Corp., said a ``laundry list'' of new services will be added at his company's newly acquired auto centers.
Moreover, Mr. Penske said he'll be ``disappointed'' if these renamed Penske Auto Centers don't double their previous sales volume within the next four years.
These are the aggressive intentions of two large and respected retail sales organizations whose actions could significantly impact tire retailing in North America. Dealers should not take them lightly.
Competition is no stranger to tire dealers, of course. Independents have gone up against retailing's Goliaths throughout their long and successful history.
Yet with mass merchandisers prepared to do battle in new and different ways, dealers need to be at their best. We anticipate dealers will rise to the occasion.