Sears drops Falken over ‘racy' ads
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (Feb. 18, 2003) — Sears, Roebuck & Co. is dropping the Falken tire line in objection to the import tire maker's racy advertising in two truck magazines, Falken Tire Corp. claimed.
The mass merchandiser informed Falken in late January it wouldn't renew its inventory of the Falken Ziex ZE 512 tire line because of ads appearing in the February and March issues of Trucking and Street Truck magazines, according to Richard Smallwood, Falken's vice president of sales and marketing.
However, Sears said its move to discontinue the Falken line was a “business decision” and wouldn't comment on Falken's claims.
“We don't comment on speculation or rumors,” a Sears spokeswoman told Tire Business, noting that Falken comprises a very small percentage of the retailer's tire business. She said Sears will offer and advertise Falken tires through April and will continue to special order the tires for its customers beyond that.
The ads in question feature a two-page spread with a voluptuous model in a jump suit standing next to a Cadillac Escalade. One ad's headline on the model's side reads “Her Bolt-ons” while the headline over the SUV reads “Your Bolt-ons.”
Mr. Smallwood said the tire company was using the ads to poke fun at the automotive aftermarket which typically advertises with “busty models in revealing clothing.”
“Women in those magazines pay $5,000 to enhance their appearance, and men will pay $5,000 to enhance their (car's) appearance,” Mr. Smallwood said. “Each sex is doing their own thing to make themselves look more appealing or to call attention to themselves.”
The publications are targeted to the street tuner and sport light truck enthusiasts who typically don't shop at Sears, he noted. But he added that Sears “still felt it was an insensitive ad.” Mr. Smallwood also noted that readers and tire dealers he's spoken with who have seen the ad spread have laughed at it. He said the two magazines were the only publications running the ad, which was slated for a two-month run.
He added that Falken historically has been a fairly conservative advertiser considering its niche in the racy aftermarket. “You'd think people would look at our track record of advertising vs. an isolated incident.”
Mr. Smallwood downplayed the financial impact of Sears' decision as “negligible” and a “very small percentage” of Falken's total business, though he declined to elaborate. “The financial effect is minimal at best. It's more of a personal or philosophical blow,” he said.
However, Sears was Falken's largest customer of Ziex ZE 512 tires in 60- and 65-series sizes and the only mass merchandiser the import marketer supplied.
The net result of Sears' decision is that Falken will concentrate all of its marketing efforts on its independent dealer network, Mr. Smallwood said. Falken is anticipating a 40-percent growth in sales this year, even without Sears as a retail channel. He said those sales estimates are based on Falken's growth in the past three years, which he attributed to the popularity of ultra-high-performance tires for sport light trucks as well as an aggressive ad campaign.
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