Even in the Caribbean, where sun, sand and beautiful beaches provide an aura of tranquility, competition is plentiful in the retail and commercial tire business.
On the small island of Dominica in the eastern Caribbean, where a group of Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. dealers visited during a recent company-sponsored cruise, about 10 different tire dealerships vie for business from the country's 72,000 residents.
One of the largest is R & C Auto Ltd., a commercial and retail outfit based in Roseau, the capital of the independent commonwealth nation, according to Janilia Raymond, office clerk at the dealership. Dominica, known as ``The Nature Island of the Caribbean'' for its rugged, mountainous beauty, may be small-only 29 miles long and 16 miles wide-but it has a seat at the United Nations.
And while the economies of many Caribbean nations are fueled by tourism, Dominica's remains based on agriculture, with bananas the largest money producer.
R & C Auto, owned by Walter Desabaye, is a single-outlet dealership housed in a large building in the Canefield Industrial area located several miles from downtown Roseau along a curvy two-lane road. The dealership sells Kelly, Hercules, Dunlop and Sport King tires, the latter made in the United Kingdom. Offerings include passenger, truck and off-the-road tires, including those for backhoes, Ms. Raymond said.
Workers perform tire mounting and balancing in a covered, open-air, bay area located across the parking lot from the main building.
R & C Auto buys its tires by the container from both the U.S. and the U.K. and has had no trouble with supply, according to Ms. Raymond. She described the dealership's work force of 17 as ``good, loyal employees.''
Like its mainland cousins, the dealership offers more than just tires and wheels. Entering the front door, visitors are greeted with shelves of auto parts and accessories as well as other general equipment for sale including lawn mowers, power washers, generators, bush cutters and chain saws. A door to the right leads into a large warehouse area where tires are stored.
Along with tire mounting and balancing, the dealership performs lawn mover service and is considering getting into alignments, Ms. Raymond said. ``When most people buy tires and the vehicle is not aligned they think something is wrong with the tires,'' she said.