Reading this issue of Tire Business you get the feeling not much will be different in 2004 vs. 2003 for tire dealers and the tire industry.
Tire prices likely will keep rising as raw material costs escalate.
Tire companies and tire dealerships will continue to struggle to achieve healthy profits.
Imported tires still will make up a significant and growing part of the product mix, and legislative issues, a la the TREAD Act and other state and federal laws and regulations, will continue to frustrate dealers and tire makers.
And despite efforts to reduce SKUs, more tire sizes, brands and types will be offered than ever before as the trend toward larger and more vehicle-specific tires marches on.
So based on those forecasts, and not surprising to us, life will remain pretty much the same in the tire business.
But the beginning of a fresh new year also offers an opportunity to take stock and to set some resolutions for the next 12 months.
For change to occur, dealers must take steps to make things change. So here are a few resolutions dealers might want to consider to make 2004 their best year ever:
* Vow to take a few extra minutes with each customer to help them better un-derstand their vehicle needs and appreciate the value and importance of tires.
* Take time to understand what the checkoff program is all about and why the Tire Industry Association believes it is so important. That way, when you're asked to vote in an industrywide referendum either for or against a tire industry checkoff, you'll have a good understanding of the issue.
* Make training a priority. With so much remaining the same in the tire business, training your employees and offering a higher level of customer service is a good way of making your dealership stand out from the crowd.
* Explore at least one new business opportunity, such as offering vehicle accessories or targeting the recreational vehicle market-anything that will expand sales and give customers another reason to visit your dealership.
* Take a hard look at the appearance of your dealership. Is it a place where your mother, wife, girlfriend or sister would feel comfortable? If not, do something about it.
* Stop selling solely on price and tout instead the importance of putting the proper tires on vehicles for maximum performance.
And in the spirit of the season, make a point of giving back to your community. This might be as simple as sponsoring a local Little League team or as large as taking on a major cause.
Either way, you'll have made your community a better place to live and indirectly said thanks to those who have helped make your dealership successful.