GREENSBORO, N.C.—After maintaining slow, steady growth the past few years, Piedmont Truck Tires Inc. is planning to double the size of its commercial tire network this year, starting with the acquisition of up to five Brad Ragan/Carolina Tire stores in North Carolina from Goodyear.
The company, which added Goodyear and Kelly to its product mix last year, is negotiating to take over a handful of Carolina Tire retail stores and will convert those acquired into Piedmont outlets this year, according to President Dan Rice.
Piedmont also plans to convert a recently acquired Nu Tread Inc. location in Wilmington, N.C., to a Piedmont store in the near future.
This growth is in addition to three commercial outlets opened last year, Mr. Rice said, in Asheboro, N.C., Asheville, N.C., and Wilmington.
As opportunities present themselves, he said, there could be further growth for the company—even outside the state. "If we go outside North Carolina, it will be for commercial locations," he said.
The addition of new stores this year should drive Piedmont's sales up by more than 25 percent, to as much as $28 million this year from $22 million in 2000. The company's sales are about 98-percent commercial and retread oriented.
The company has no immediate plans to expand beyond its two Bandag retread plants in Greensboro and Raleigh, Mr. Rice said.
Piedmont currently has 160 employees, but with the opening of several more stores that number will rise to nearly 200.
As it expands, the company continues to improve, he said, attributing much of that progress to the growth of manufacturer-controlled distribution. That requires Piedmont to maintain quality services at all times.
"The people we're competing with are getting bigger and better and more well-financed," he said. "And I think that will force you to be better in the service end. It's forcing everybody to be better. We'll have a lot less competitors, but all of them will be good."
Revenues from fleet service programs account for about 50 percent of Piedmont's business—up 10 percent from the previous year. He expects that will continue to grow as companies consolidate.
Piedmont has its own total tire servicing program, which includes mounted wheel programs, wheel painting and cost-per-mile. When local companies with small trucking fleets need servicing, Piedmont prefers to do the maintenance. "We're unusual in that we do truck maintenance," Mr. Rice said.
He added that the company's retreading costs are rising while margins are decreasing. In 2000, Piedmont produced an average 315 retread units per day, and used 2 million pounds of tread rubber for its truck retreads.