MFA Oil Co., the exclusive Big O Tires Inc. franchisee in Missouri, is planning to wave the Big O banner higher than ever before next year.
The Columbia-based company opened a Big O Tires store Oct. 1 in Springfield, bringing its network of Big O stores to seven to go with two MFA Service Centers. In 2005, MFA has plans to open another five Big O stores in Missouri for a grand total of 14.
``It's most likely they'll open,'' said Kevin Martin, manager of MFA's tire division. ``Location is a factor and also just the business-how it goes in 2005.'' Mr. Martin declined to name the prospective sites for the new stores but said they were cities and towns in southwestern Missouri. MFA's Big O territory includes the Kansas and Illinois suburbs in Greater Kansas City and Greater St. Louis
In addition, the two MFA Service Centers may be rechristened with the Big O name, he said.
If MFA's recent business is any indication, those five new stores will open without any hitch. The company had sales of $21 million in 2002 and $22 million in 2003 and expects to hit $23 million this year.
The company's retail sales totaled $8 million in 2002 and dropped to $7 million in 2003 but should rise again to $8 million this year. Its operations are approximately 40 percent retail and 60 percent wholesale.
Tires and wheels make up the bulk of MFA's retail sales-65 percent. Thirty percent of retail sales were in auto service and 5 percent in other things. As a Big O franchisee, MFA participates in marketing programs from TBC Corp., Big O's parent. The company carries brands that include Toyo, Multi-Mile, Denman and Sigma.
When asked what effect the economy and rising consumer prices were having on MFA, Mr. Martin said: ``We're not selling sets of tires.'' Customers are just buying single tires as needed rather than replacing all the tires on their vehicles, he explained.
MFA's biggest fill rate problems this year have come from Chinese import tires, he said, but the most significant issue facing the company is the need to educate both dealers and consumers on the absolute importance of matching the right tire to the vehicle.
``If you have a dealer trying to sell the right tire at $100, and the guy down the street is selling the wrong tire at $60, the only thing the customer knows is that he's saving $40 a tire,'' Mr. Martin said. ``Then a little ways down the road, you've got problems.''