MISSISSAUGA, Ontario-Bridgestone/Firestone Canada Inc. (BFC) unveiled its Tire Club retail tire concept two years ago with plans to install the voluntary program in all of its independent Firestone Tire & Auto Centres nationwide.
While it hasn't quite reached that goal yet, the tire maker can count 61 out of 90 independent Firestone stores along with 10 company-owned outlets as Tire Club participants. It also has signed more than 10,000 consumers as club members.
Now, it's looking to expand club benefits and improve communication with members along with adding more independent Firestone and company-owned outlets to the program.
Tire Club, as the name implies, is a program designed to tie tire customers to BFC outlets and to keep them coming back for tires and service. It's similar to a loyalty or rewards club for consumers, a company spokesman said, and it's a way to communicate with them at the dealer and corporate levels.
The program has two elements. From a physical standpoint, Tire Club is like a ``store within a store,'' in that dealerships are required to create a ``tire wall'' within their showrooms for displaying Bridgestone/Firestone tires by brand and application.
``This creates a focal point for our products,'' the spokesman said, and gives the stores a look and feel of continuity. BFC provides dealerships with co-op funds to help in erecting the tire wall.
The club also serves as a marketing tool to help dealers attract and retain tire and service customers. In a study several years ago, BFC found that customers who frequent the company's dealerships for tires don't necessarily have their vehicles serviced at the same location. The same scenario held true for those servicing their vehicles at a Firestone location. Some went elsewhere for tires.
To tie these customers to the dealerships for both tires and service, Tire Club provides a number of free consumer benefits including tire rotation for the life of the tires, roadside assistance, a complimentary oil change, a five-year tire warranty from the day of purchase and an annual vehicle inspection.
``We believe (Tire Club) provides our dealers with a unique selling proposition vs. the competition, and it helps the company develop a relationship with the consumer,'' the spokesman said.
Joining Tire Club is free. Consumers automatically become members and receive a membership card after buying a set of four tires from a participating dealership.
For 2002, BFC wants to expand the benefits package it offers to Tire Club members, the spokesman said. This might involve adding more service-related options such as oil and fluid services as well as discounts on magazines and at food chains.
``The challenge is to find benefits that will work across the country,'' the spokesman said.
The company also is looking at how to use its Web site and the Internet to better communicate with Tire Club members.
In addition, it wants to automate the registration process for Tire Club members, which now is done manually at each dealership.
The difficulty, the spokesman said, is that since Tire Club dealerships are independently owned, they have different point-of-sale computer systems, making a common registration system complicated to develop.
BFC also will strive to enroll the remaining independent Firestone stores in the Tire Club program.
``We'll continue to try and get them on board,'' the spokesman said, noting ``it's easier to communicate with the TAC group (Firestone Tire & Auto Centres) as an entity.''
Finally, the company will focus its efforts on driving more consumers into Tire Club stores. In last year's second half, he noted BFC advertised the program in Canadian Reader's Digest.