NORWELL, Mass.—Since birds of a feather indeed flock together, Sullivan Tire Co. Inc. wants to hang around where the birds—the really big birds—fly.
The dealership recently entered the retail market in Maine through the purchase of three Yudy's Tire & Auto Service outlets. (See Dealer Digest, page 5.) But it also boosted its commercial holdings by two locations last year.
One, a former GCR Truck Tire Center in Warwick, R.I., is about a half-mile from the Providence, R.I., airport. The other, which Sullivan Tire built in Revere, Mass., is within a sonic boom of Boston's Logan Airport.
The game plan for 2001, acknowledged John E. Donovan, Sullivan Tire's vice president of sales, is to locate new sites near industrial/commercial centers, such as the company's facility in Revere, near Bean Town's big Boston Market. And in most cases, that means finding a spot by an airport, when possible.
In the planning stages for this year are a commercial outlet in Marlboro, Mass., some 30 miles west of Boston, and another that will be built near the airport in Manchester, N.H.
Company execs also are eyeballing blueprints to either rebuild a Bandag retread plant Sullivan Tire operates alongside its commercial outlet in Bow, N.H., or, Mr. Donovan said, build a new one and relocate the truck center closer to, of course, an airport.
Commercial tire-related sales last year for the firm hit $24.5 million—up a million from 1999—and it's projecting those to reach $27 million this year. Total company sales were $75 million in 2000 and are forecast to total $81 million in 2001.
About 45 percent of Sullivan Tire's business is in national accounts. "That's a good number—we'd like to keep it right there," Mr. Donovan said, but that means "we also need to develop more of the local business."
Sticking at that percentage keeps the company's two retread plants busy "and gives us a base of business everyday," he added, yet does not force the dealership to be a "prisoner" to national accounts. "We're lucky. We have a pretty good mix right now.
"Bridgestone/Firestone is a big contributor—they're aggressive in the national account business, do a real good job and help us out."
Noting an ongoing concern, Mr. Donovan told Tire Business the firm is focusing a lot of energy on expanding its training efforts this year.
To applaud and encourage employee accomplishments, it recently held a company-wide meeting that gathered every worker who holds any kind of professional certification, whether it be from Bandag Inc., the International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA), or the Automotive Service Association (ASE).
Techs received $100 for every certification. Some master techs in the company's automotive service areas have at least 10 and walked away with up to $1,000, he said.
In addition to ITRA certifications, the company also is developing several Sullivan Tire certifications, he added, so in order for a tech to be a master truck tire service person, he will have to pass ITRA's and Sullivan's programs.
"We're putting a lot of emphasis into training," he said. "Bobby Sullivan, our president, is very very committed to training."
The company has on staff three trainers who usually hold sessions in area hotels or on site at Sullivan's retail and commercial stores. Mr. Donovan said there also is a "modest" training center in the firm's Brockton, Mass., warehouse.
Through the early 1990s, Sullivan Tire was able to brag that it was 100 percent Goodyear, that is, until increased competition forced it to expand commercial tire offerings to now include Bridgestone, Continental, General, Firestone and some private labels. But the Goodyear brand still accounts for more than 75 percent of its product lineup.
"We're always talking to somebody, to various suppliers," Mr. Donovan admitted, but the company hasn't made any other commitments for the immediate future.
On the other hand, while many of the country's retreaders are being wined and dined by various competing companies trying to convince them to switch retreading systems, Sullivan Tire is "happy with Bandag Inc. and plans to remain with them," he said. "We have a good relationship with (Bandag CEO) Marty Carver and the Bandag people."
Still, Sullivan's been courted by a number of companies—but not Michelin North America Inc.—he pointed out. "Everybody's looking for a retreader. The opportunities are all over the place if you want to make a jump from one to another."