There's safety-and presumably profits-in numbers.
That appears to be the underlying motivation for independent tire dealers to join one of the dozens of retail marketing groups available in North America.
The number of independent marketing groups-characterized by some sort of common identity in the marketplace-has grown steadily in recent years as small independents try to find ways to stay competitive with the large and growing chains. Many of the groups are operated by regional wholesalers looking to solidify relationships with their customers-with the added benefit of enhancing their own sales.
The number of independent dealers participating in such programs stands at more than 5,500 in the U.S. and nearly 1,100 in Canada-representing about 23 and 33 percent, respectively, of the independent dealer bases in these countries. The collective buying power of these groups easily exceeds $2 billion.
The programs profiled in this special section range from pure franchise to loose affiliations. The common denominator, though, is whether program participants ``fly the company flag'' or not.
This definition excludes some of the better known buying groups-Tire Alliance Groupe Ltd., Midwest Tire Association, Goodyear G3 Xpress, Independent Tire Dealers Group L.L.C., etc.-which collectively account for another 4,000 to 5,000 more dealers who have banded together for buying power.
By definition, a franchise is: A form of business organization in which a firm that has a successful product or service (the franchisor) enters into a continuing contractual relationship with other businesses (franchisees) operating under the franchisor's trade name and usually with the franchisor's guidance, in exchange for a fee.
The definition of an affiliated or associate dealer varies from program to program, but in general these types of programs don't have up-front and/or periodical fees. Instead, they require participants to buy a certain dollar amount of merchandise or guarantee that a certain percentage of his/her sales volume will go through the wholesaler/program initiator.
The reasons for these groups' existence and the reasons for joining them are outlined in other stories in this section.
The most widespread of the independent marketing groups is American Car Care Centers Inc., with more than 850 dealers operating 1,083 outlets across the country. More than a quarter of these outlets, 278, also fly the Tire Pros flag-a further development to the marketing concept initiated by Ampac Tire Distributors, a Simi Valley, Calif.-based ACCC wholesale distributor active in 14 states across the southern tier of U.S. states from Alabama to California.
TBC Corp.'s Big O Tires Inc. franchise network would be next, with 470 franchisees operating 556 outlets in 22 states from Ohio to California. There also are 34 Big O franchised locations in British Columbia.
Tire Centers L.L.C.'s T3 Certified Tire Centers network has grown to 413 locations, followed closely by American Tire Distributors Inc.'s AutoEdge program with 346 dealers in the Southeast and Community Wholesale Tire's ITD/Independent Tire Dealer Buying Group. It has 302 members and outlets along the Mississippi Valley.
In Canada, OK Tire Stores Inc. counts 235 franchisees across the country, with President Tire Canada Ltd. showing 164 franchisees primarily in the eastern provinces.