The idea for a special issue on women tire dealers and store personnel began simply enough. Maggie Smith, a sales associate with Monteith Tire of Elkhart, Ind., wrote us last year suggesting we publish an article on female counter salespeople at the retail level.
She also asked an open-ended question. She wanted ``to know how other women in the business are doing, if their gender is an advantage, and if they handle customers differently than their male counterparts.''
We published her letter and urged readers to reply to her request. The response was overwhelming.
Women tire dealers and store employees throughout the country wrote to tell us of their experiences working in the male-dominated tire industry.
And like the Energizer bunny, the letters kept coming, and coming and coming*.*.*.*.
The response was so impressive it prompted us to undertake the special section, ``The tire business from a woman's perspective,'' in this issue, which was edited by reporter Kathy McCarron, who did a superb job of pulling it all together.
The letters, as well as comments from a TIRE BUSINESS survey, were thoughtful and revealed some interesting trends about women dealership employees and owners.
For example, even in this supposedly enlightened age, the majority of women said they continue to be viewed skeptically by some customers, particularly older males, regarding their ability to run a tire dealership and sell tires and service.
Most also suggested they must work harder to prove to customers and co-workers they are capable and knowledgeable.
``Men seem to expect more from women when selling tires and you just have to prove to them that you can sell them and know what you are selling,'' one women dealer wrote.
Those responding also found that women customers, who now make up nearly half of all tire buyers today, are pleased and surprised to find a female working in or running a tire store.
It's also clear from the responses that women are proud of their roles in the tire industry. They believe the business offers a good career opportunity.
Readers of both sexes should find these articles beneficial to their businesses. Let us know what you think.
Mr. Zielasko is editor and associate publisher of TIRE BUSINESS