NASHVILLE, Tenn.-American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) collaborated recently with Bridgestone/Firestone to host the distributor's first TireStarz dealer meeting-and the largest national TireStarz conference-at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
With 300 total attendees-including 99 tire dealers-the gathering was ``one of most successful I've ever attended,'' according to Bill Pace, manager of the TireStarz program. Held March 4-7, the meeting included addresses on various trends in the marketplace by Mark Emkes, BFS chairman, CEO and president; ATD President and COO William Berry; and John Gamauf, president of BFS's consumer replacement tire division.
Mr. Berry highlighted ATD's key accomplishments in 2003, such as opening a 60th distribution center in Des Moines, Iowa, and delivering approximately 14.6 million tires and wheels. He also discussed key initiatives for 2004, emphasizing ATD's new added benefits to TireStarz dealers:
* A $1,500 event marketing fund for dealers who order a minimum of 150 tires;
* ATD's willingness to pick up the 20 percent in costs BFS doesn't cover in its turnkey flier program (a direct mail advertising program); and
* A consistency bonus program, where dealers can earn benefits if they achieve their sales targets, to name a few.
``We have the largest roster of TireStarz dealers in the U.S.,'' said Ron Sinclair, ATD's vice president of marketing. ``We felt it was important to bring the group together with American Tire Distributors and BFS management to share our growth plans for the future.'' He noted that in 2003, ATD's TireStarz dealer roster grew 26 percent to 126-the most of any TireStarz distributor.
Seminar and workshop topics at the ATD/TireStarz meeting included ``The Power of Promotion,'' ``Advertising Made Easy,'' ``Capitalizing on High Performance'' and ``Financial Planning for Success.''
And the conference was not without its fanfare-Al Unser Jr. awarded two trips to the Indianapolis 500 to Ted Smith, owner of V&O Tire in Columbia, S.C., and to Gary Soderburg, owner of Collin's Tire in Gardena, Calif. Dealers also were treated to a surprise concert by Alison Krauss, Kenny Chesney and Uncle Kracker at the Grand Ole Opry.
Mr. Pace said he and Charlie Lowe, ATD's TireStarz manager, brought in prospective TireStarz dealers to the March meeting to present the program to them. Mr. Pace told Tire Business he expects the program to gain more than 200 dealers this year; it netted 206 retailers in 2002 and 229 retailers in 2001.
``I have to think we're the fastest growing program in the industry,'' Mr. Pace said. ``We're not in a race, but we keep having tons of people enroll.''
TireStarz now has more than 850 locations in the U.S. and more than 100 locations in Canada, where BFS rolled out the TireStarz program a year ago. Forty U.S. dealers signed up for the program in February and March, and about 20 so far in April, according to Mr. Pace.
He said TireStarz dealers sold a record number of units in March but declined to elaborate. He also said Firestone brand sales among TireStarz dealers are up more than 30 percent so far.