Nobody really knows what the future will bring. But comments found in the special keepsake section of this issue shed light on some problems tire dealers likely will face in the next millennium. If they hope to prosper, dealers must resolve personnel issues, including finding, retaining and motivating employees, and assure themselves of a steady supply of tires purchased at competitive prices.
Future success will require outstanding customer service, of which employees obviously are the key. But dealer after dealer complained of difficulties in locating, let alone, hiring and retaining good employees.
They called tire work unattractive, low paying and, as one dealer put it, ``pretty low on the food chain, as far as picking people.''
Clearly, dealers must make their operations more appealing to potential employees.
Sharing the company's financial success, providing flexible work schedules and treating employees as partners can go a long way toward this end.
As Tom Foord, president and CEO of Kal Tire in Vernon, British Columbia, put it: ``Employees today want to feel like they're part of the organization. And unless you have a good profit-sharing plan to keep their interest up, you'll be taking a second seat.''
That implies, of course, that dealers will have profits to share.
Which brings up the second issue: supplier relationships.
Many dealers cited pricing inequity and lack of loyalty by tire manufacturers as major obstacles to their profitability.
Some told of finding the same tires they have on back order being sold by mass merchandisers and discounters at prices lower than the dealers could buy them.
They said most manufacturers, by catering to such large-volume buyers, are making it difficult for smaller dealers to sell tires at a sufficient profit.
Dealers also cited the tire makers' increasing fondness for national accounts business, which they said leaves them short on cash needed to pay bills and meet payroll.
``I think profitability in all facets of the business is getting less because the manufacturers are trying to find new ways to move products, and they are forgetting the tire dealers who have put them where they are,'' one dealer said.
It's absurd that independent tire dealers—who retail more than half of all replacement tires in North America—should find themselves at a disadvantage to competitors in regard to their purchasing cost and product availability.
Manufacturers must provide better service and pricing for their best and most profitable customers—independent dealers.
For tire makers and dealers alike, the future belongs to those who keep costs in line, offer excellent service and provide quality products at competitive prices.