AKRON (June 19, 1998)—Tire dealers in every community ought to consider banding together like those in California's San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles. More than an effort to buy tires and other products cheaper, this group is also looking at ways to help each other better run their businesses, improve service to customers and, at the same time, make them all more money.
Many tire dealers complain about unfair competition from mass merchandisers and national discounters.
But this small assemblage has taken steps to make their David-vs.-Goliath struggle less one-sided.
Rather than merely grousing about the lower purchasing costs and other special favors manufacturers grant mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co., these dealers decided to work together—instead of against each other—to make the situation more equitable.
Other dealers threatened by the loss of business to large national and regional competitors should take encouragement from the San Fernando Valley dealers.
Members of the group gather in tightly run meetings to trade business tips, pool resources, leverage their clout with suppliers and discuss important topics such as dealership management, technician training, customer service and the respective strengths and weaknesses of mass merchandising competitors.
The rock-solid business suggestions they put forth during the session reported on in this issue (See page 1) should be must-reading for every independent dealer.
Between meetings, group members visit each others' dealerships, performing objective evaluations of the outlet's customer appeal and offering suggestions on how things could be improved.
No dealer enjoys having a competitor point out the shortcomings of his or her business. Nor are most dealers comfortable sharing trade secrets with their peers.
But the process can be enlightening, as members of the group have discovered.
Independent dealers always have found strength through association. This is a key reason why they continue to dominate the retail tire market.
However, members of the San Fernando Valley group have closed ranks in a manner matched by few dealer groups to date.
More dealers should follow their example.