WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.-With the goal of filling much of the eastern seaboard with associated stores, TBC Corp.'s Tire Kingdom Inc. (TKI) subsidiary is offering a new associate dealer program.
It is aimed at allowing participating retailers to maintain independent status while enjoying the economies of scale and other advantages of being part of TKI's operation.
Headed by Mike Cox, Tire Kingdom's senior vice president of corporate accounts, the West Palm Beach-based retail chain's new program offers independent tire retailers the chance to ``do it the way the big boys do.''
``We're going out in areas where we don't have distribution and finding out who the strongest players are,'' Mr. Cox said. ``They can partake a la carte in what they want from Tire Kingdom.''
``We'' actually means TBC as much as it does TKI. In the last six months TBC has acquired Paul Lewis Tire in Northern Florida and Lucas Tire in Louisiana-both 10-store dealerships converted to Tire Kingdom stores.
The new program will allow existing independent dealers to maintain their identity-``whatever flag they fly,'' Mr. Cox said-while having access to all aspects of Tire Kingdom's operation.
Program highlights include:
Single source ordering;
Simplified net pricing;
Complete advertising and merchandising support;
A national credit card program;
Progressive sales, technical and product training; and
A comprehensive automotive parts and equipment program.
Associate dealers will be treated as if they were a Tire Kingdom store, Mr. Cox said of a potential participant's access to these amenities.
They'll enjoy the same supplier discounts previously available only to big volume purchasers, while the credit card program offers customers 90-day, same-as-cash options. That, along with media negotiations, is what Mr. Cox said sets the program apart.
Participants also will benefit from the availability of a lower-priced entry-level tire that, he said, for years has allowed the majors to advertise customer-enticing values that most independent dealerships could not.
The associate dealer program is modeled after an affiliate dealer program run by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., where Mr. Cox worked for more than a decade. However, TKI's is not a franchise program. Its goal is to increase distribution and perhaps eventually enhance Tire Kingdom as a brand name.
With stores throughout Florida-as well as recently purchased outlets in Augusta, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., and New England that will be converted into Tire Kingdom stores-one of the plan's objectives is to fill in the space between New England and the tip of Florida with Tire Kingdom-affiliated dealers.
While looking to spread associated dealers throughout the country, keeping them spread out is of equal importance. Having a dealership on top of another will not do dealers or the program any good, he said.
``The other thing we're not going to do is cannibalize,'' he said. ``We're not just going to go in and dump in tire stores. We're going to look closely at where we go. We don't want to be close to (existing) Tire Kingdom stores. That wouldn't be fair to either party.''
Founded in 1972, Tire Kingdom has 172 stores throughout the Southeast and more than 1,600 employees. It is the fifth-largest independent tire retailer in the U.S. Memphis, Tenn.- based TBC also owns Big O Tires Inc. in the western U.S., and wholesale distributors Carroll Tire Co. in the Southeast, Northern States Tire in the Northeast and Superior Tire, a retail joint venture in Las Vegas.