With year one under its tire belt-and about 100 points of sale so far signed up-TireStarz in Canada now is looking to sign up distributors plus dealers currently aligned with competing tire makers.
In the U.S., Bridgestone/Firestone's TireStarz program has about 850 dealer members with 900 locations. The marketing group offers dealers Bridgestone and Firestone brands, plus other associate brands that vary by distributor.
The tire maker's sister company, Bridgestone/Firestone Canada Inc., launched its TireStarz program in July 2003. It includes the Bridgestone, Firestone and Dayton brands but no associate labels.
Lou Monico, national manager for the Canadian program, said the launch has been successful so far. ``We're getting dealers on board on a monthly basis,'' he said.
The Canadian program has two components. The first, dubbed TireStarz Direct, is more akin to BFS's Affiliated Dealer program in the U.S. where tire dealers buy direct from the tire maker. The second, which was just recently launched, is a program for distributors, who then bring their accounts onto the BFS rolls. Mr. Monico did not yet have available figures on participating distributors.
In addition to seeking distributors, Mr. Monico said he is soliciting tire dealerships now aligned with competing tire makers.
``That's actually the phase we're at now,'' he told Tire Business. ``Initially we converted our existing dealers onto the program, whoever qualified, and now in this phase we're trying to get new dealers, competitor dealers on board.''
TireStarz is reaching out to these competing dealers with direct mailings and a door-to-door strategy. Mr. Monico said he's trying to highlight Bridgestone/Firestone's strong retail background as well as the TireStarz program's emphasis on sell-out.
``The whole program around TireStarz is to use our tools to help them take their tires off the shelf rather than always trying to sell in,'' he said.
Mr. Monico said he doesn't have any specific membership goals for the program's second year. ``At this time we don't know potentially how far it could grow,'' he said.
Bill Pace, manager of the TireStarz program in the U.S. who also oversees the Canadian counterpart, said he's confident about the possibilities in Canada. ``I'm really optimistic about some opportunities we have there,'' he said, adding the U.S. program is growing nicely.
Gus Moumouris, owner of Tune Ups to Tires in Toronto, said he joined the TireStarz program soon after its launch last summer. A Bridgestone/Firestone dealer for 12 years, he said he regularly supports new BFS programs, noting: ``You've got to either play with them or not.''
Though the program hasn't yet generated an impact on his business, he has confidence that it will. ``Like anything else I think that will take some time,'' he explained.
While TireStarz has a large presence in the U.S., the name is not as well known in Canada, Mr. Moumouris said.
``It's not very familiar up north, but it's an easy name to catch on,'' he added.
An Ontario TireStarz dealer who would not give his name said he became a TireStarz dealer in February when he bought a Bridgestone/Firestone dealer outlet. He said he likes the program primarily for the retail and marketing support from Bridgestone/Firestone.
``It's a whole package that comes together with TireStarz,'' he said. ``It's a fabulous deal.''