Tire Centers L.L.C.'s T3 marketing program celebrated its third full year by signing on about 125 dealers to its ranks, finishing 2003 with 475 retail points of sale.
The surge of dealers signing up-in May the program was at 394 dealers-puts the marketing program into the next stage of its life as managers switch gears from expanding the ranks to developing its services.
``With the size of the program and how it's grown out there in three years from nothing to 475 locations, our focus really needs to be on making sure the program works really well for our dealers in it,'' said Dave Snyder. He is vice president of small tire marketing and sales for Tire Centers L.L.C. and head of its T3 program. Rather than continuing to focus on trying to find new dealers, he added, ``we want to keep those and grow those, our current dealers.''
The T3 program is managed through Tire Centers L.L.C., which formerly was called Tire Centers Inc. (TCI) until its acquisition by Michelin North America Inc. The wholly owned Michelin subsidiary is still often informally referred to by the TCI name.
The marketing program appeals primarily to small retail dealers who average sales of about 200,000 to 350,000 tires a year. T3 benefits include a credit card program, a showroom redesign, a national service warranty, advertising help and special national promotions among others.
Mr. Snyder said the new sign-ups include dealers in two new markets for T3: Tampa, Fla., and Philadelphia. A member in Northern California also is expected to be on board soon, adding that market. T3 is presently in about 30 states across the country, he said.
Mr. Snyder said T3 will be more selective in signing on dealers, looking especially for small retail dealers who will be a good fit with the program and won't encroach on another T3 dealer's territory. He also will look into opportunities for expanding the program's services, most notably expanding electronic data information (EDI) capabilities, such as electronic billing and ordering.
He said he will know better next year when or how some of those services can be extended to members.
Last year, the program established a T3 Dealer Advisory Council made up of eight dealers throughout the U.S. who work with the company to provide feedback about the program. Mr. Snyder said the group meets about once a year, with the next meeting scheduled in February. ``We get a good sounding board there,'' he said.
Dealers pay an enrollment fee as well as a monthly fee, though there are no specific buying requirements. T3 features the Michelin, BF-Goodrich and Uniroyal brands along with the exclusive Trivant private brand program.
Mr. Snyder said a lot of dealers signing on recently are transplants from other marketing programs.
``The benefits (T3) offers I think fit very well for the dealers-the market that we're trying to service,'' he told Tire Business.
Norm Teltow, owner of Colorado Tire & Service Co. in Aurora, Colo., joined T3 this past fall after belonging to various marketing programs during his 30 years in business.
``They definitely want you to have the know-how to market not only their product but also your dealership as a retail tire dealer,'' he said of T3.
Mr. Teltow said T3's staff has been very supportive, visiting his store and asking about what he'd like to see in the program. Since joining T3, the group helped redesign his showroom, focused his advertising and taken him and his staff to sales training seminars that already helped boost his tire sales about 12 percent, he said.
Mr. Snyder said in the past three years only about 20 dealers have left T3 because the program didn't exactly fit into their business. He said many of those were more heavily into automotive service and sold too few tires to benefit from T3 membership.
But he said the group's field representatives now have the experience to pick out a dealer who may not fit in the program.
He said the group does not have specific enrollment goals for the coming years. ``We're being very selective in who we sign on to the program now,'' he said.