After her family took over an existing Goodyear dealership in North Carolina more than a decade ago, Barbara Briggs didn't exactly see a stampede of customers coming through the doors.
The Briggs and Sons Tire name just wasn't getting out. Well over a decade later, the name isn't only getting out, but it's doing so in style.
Hodges Associates Inc., an advertising, marketing and public relations agency in Fayetteville, N.C., recently bagged a pair of ``Addy'' awards, given by the American Advertising Association. The campaigns, entitled ``Marriage,'' captured a top-level award for a newspaper campaign, and a Citation of Excellence for a multi-media campaign. Both campaigns announced Briggs' acquisition of two former Kelly-Springfield Tire company-owned stores in the area.
``We're very pleased,'' said Ms. Briggs, who co-founded Briggs and Sons with her husband, Bob. ``They've been our ad agency for the last 10 years. We feel (Hodges) has done an extremely good job of getting our name out to the public.''
The ``Marriage'' print campaign features a series of ads commemorating the coupling of Briggs and Sons and Kelly Tire. One includes a photo of two tires, one Kelly and one Goodyear, with the caption, ``It Was a Mutual A-Traction.''
In another, a caricature of a car has a ``just married'' sign along with Briggs and Sons and Kelly Tires bumper stickers. A third ad says ``Just Married,'' with Goodyear and Kelly Tires locked like wedding rings. ``We get a lot of comments on our ads,'' Ms. Briggs said. ``So we know it's working.'' Briggs and Sons is a 27-year-old dealership with seven stores in Clinton and Fayetteville in central North Carolina, and Jacksonville in the southeast part of the state. Four Briggs family members-including Barbara, who serves as secretary/treasurer-work for the company, which employs more than 100 people altogether.
The company is a Goodyear-Kelly dealership and also has a commercial truck tire center. Briggs and Sons also does some retreading, using Goodyear's Next-Tred system.
On the strength of a customer-first attitude, Dean Sippy's Big O Tires Inc. store in Silver City, N.M., has bested 27 other franchises in the Colorado/New Mexico area to win the Englewood, Colo.-based retail franchiser's ``Store of the Year'' honors.
The 9-year-old competition rates stores based on such criteria as sales percentage increase and dollar increases. The Silver City store was first in total sales volume and had its largest increase since 1993.
``There's a lot of stores in the area here that really weren't doing that great four or five years ago,'' said Doug O'Dell, the store's manager. ``Things have really shot up. We treat every customer as if they're our final customer. The whole attitude toward the customer has changed.''
The Silver City store features five bays and employs 17 people. Among them are seven tire changers, four mechanics, four salespeople and two counter people.
In addition to the Big O brand, it sells BFGoodrich, Michelin and Kelly products, as well as American Racing and Eagle wheels. The store also does some commercial business, selling Bridgestone, Michelin and Yokohama brands.
Big T Tires and Wheel Service Inc. in Deltona, Fla., was recently sold to Steve Ayers, represented by Lloyd Management Inc.
The newly named Ayers Tire and Service L.L.C. began operating on Feb. 1. The four-bay store, which also has two outside bays, plus an exhaust and oil change bay, employs three technicians and one general service person.
Despite nearly half a year in operation, Ayers Tire-a Goodyear/Cooper dealership-is still waiting for its Goodyear signage, store manager Randy Cox said.
The store, in a residential area, is painted in Goodyear's trademark blue and yellow. ``Nobody knows who we are,'' Mr. Cox said, noting that the company's name is on the building.
Mr. Cox said the store has done about $63,000 a month in sales since opening, and will gross in the neighborhood of $750,000 per year.
One of the nation's biggest Goodyear dealerships is getting bigger.
Colony Tire Corp., based in Edenton, N.C., has added three locations and a fourth is set to open next month, which will bring to 29 the number of Colony outlets in North Carolina and Virginia.
Retail stores that opened in Garner and Wilson, N.C., feature eight bays and cover 6,000 square feet.
A new Wakefield, N.C., retail outlet which has to conform to neighborhood deed restrictions is a bit bigger at 8,000 square feet and 10 bays. Colony's Web site bills the new stores as ``state of the art.''
``One of the things that makes them that is how much they cost. I hope they're state of the art, at that price,'' mused Colony President Charles Creighton. ``We have all the newest computer equipment from Hunter.''
Mr. Creighton said Colony does a good deal of commercial business, but already has truck tire centers near all three new retail locations.
The fourth outlet, due to open in August in Rocky Mount, N.C., will be a 14,000-sq.-ft., 11-bay (eight auto, three truck) retail/commercial site.
The new stores each will employ about 10 people, Mr. Creighton said. Colony, which opened as a gas station a quarter-century ago, has more than 300 employees overall.
Tom Merryfield, owner of Berlin, Wis.-based Badger State Tire, recently opened a second store, located in Redgranite, Wis.
The six-bay, 6,336-sq.-ft. Redgranite outlet, just 25 miles west of Oshkosh, employs six, Mr. Merryfield said. Badger State Tire primarily carries the Laramie brand and sells passenger, light truck, farm, wheelbarrow and boat trailer tires, as well as farm implements.
Mr. Merryfield, who founded the company in 1988 after working for Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. for 10 1/2 years, said his Berlin store posted $750,000 in 2000 sales and projects both stores to post more than $1 million in 2001.
Saying he wanted his store to be covered by the ``umbrella'' of a large company, Leroy Richards has taken his East Side Tire store in Broken Arrow, Okla., and sheltered it with the Big O name.
East Side formally opened as a Big O Tires Inc. store on May 7, keeping the East Side Tire name for the auto service portion of the business.
``We realized we had to get under an umbrella,'' Mr. Richards said. ``There are not too many out there. Big O is aggressive in its expansion.''
The Broken Arrow store opened in 1989. Its nine employees include a service manager, four technicians, two tire/wheel changers and a salesman.
The 7,000-sq.-ft. store has eight bays and sells Michelin and BFGoodrich along with the Big O brand. Mr. Richards said he particularly likes Big O's warranty program.
``It's going to take a while (to generate business),'' he said. ``Not a lot of people in this market are familiar with Big O.''
Things have settled down a bit for Morgan Tire & Auto Inc., following its purchase a year ago July of Minnesota-based Team Tires Plus Ltd.
Under the leadership of CEO Larry Morgan and Chairman Tom Gegax, the combined dealership-which now operates under the Tires Plus name-has continued to grow.
``We still have a lot of new stores to open,'' Mr. Morgan told Tire Business. ``We probably open about one a week.''
Rather than embark down the acquisition route yet again, he added that ``we need to digest what we have. The Tires Plus (purchase) was a big one for Morgan Tire. We're about to get that one under control.''
The dealership operates about 600 outlets nationwide under various names including Olson Tire, Wheel Works, Avellino's Tire, Hibdon Tire Centers and Michel Tire.
Mr. Morgan said there still are about 350 stores not yet converted to Tires Plus signage. The company is soliciting bids from sign companies to finish the job, which he expects will be accomplished by the first quarter of next year.