Though talks to absorb about 30 tire dealerships in British Columbia under its banner didn't materialize, President Tire Canada still is working to recruit about 40 dealers in western Canada to gain a foothold there.
Denis Monette, general manager of Laval-based President Tire, said the talks broke down about two weeks ago. The stores operate under one banner, and President Tire wanted them in its network though it was not looking to buy them.
Still, President Tire remains committed to gaining a strong foothold in the western half of the country. President Tire operates 23 corporate-owned stores in addition to its 226 franchised stores. Seventeen of the corporate stores were formerly Sears Canada Inc. auto centers in Quebec and the Maritimes. Of its franchises, only seven are in British Columbia.
``We must be in western (Canada) and in B.C. well represented,'' Mr. Monette said. ``So we have to put our act together in order to be there, which is what we're doing right now.''
A big focus also is on the plains area of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Mr. Monette said. ``Western Canada is very solid with (marketing) groups,'' he added. ``Everybody is there-the big groups, the big players, they're all represented. We're not, so we're going there. We're going to try to make our way in.''
He added that President Tire is letting its presence in the areas be known through marketing and promotions but not by targeting other groups' dealers.
``We have to prove to everyone that we are different and there is something to join our group, but again we're not knocking at everybody's door in order to say, `Do you want to change?''' Mr. Monette said. ``It's not our attitude and policy.''
Mr. Monette doesn't mince words when it comes to President Tire gaining as strong a presence in the western part of the country as it has in the east. ``We want to be truly recognized as a whole national entity,'' he told Tire Business. ``So that's why we have to be as strong out west as we are out east.''
President Tire recently signed on 12 dealers in Ontario, Mr. Monette said. President Tire also got a boost earlier this year when Sears announced it would exit the automotive aftermarket business in Canada. President Tire, Active Green + Ross and Kal Tire assumed control of the Canadian auto centers. Mr. Monette said the integration of the former Sears stores is complete, and President Tire was able to retain about 95 percent of the Sears employees. The toughest part of the transition, he said, was adapting the employees' mindset to President Tire's culture.
``We were confident that it was not going to happen overnight,'' he said. ``So far after three months it's going quite well.''
President Tire reported 2003 sales of about $55 million (Can.) and expects 2004 sales to reach $75 million (Can.). Much of that increase, Mr. Monette said, is from the Sears acquisition. Sales in 2005 could grow again to about $100 million (Can.), he added.