Nebraska Tire is barely a decade old and yet the dealership has set an ambitious goal of more than doubling its store count in the next five years.
Nebraska Tire, a division of Firth-based Countryside Cooperative, reached a dozen retail stores with the opening of outlets in Kimball and Sidney, Neb., in the past year and may add four more by year-end, according to Bruce Docter, operations manager. He declined to comment on the additional four but said the Sidney and Kimball stores were not acquisitions of competing dealerships.
One of the two new stores already has posted more than $1 million in sales, he said, noting that the entire dealership has consistently seen sales jump by $2 million to $2.5 million per year.
``That's huge,'' he said. ``We're going to be in that $12 million (range) this year, and we will probably be right at $14 million next year again.''
Mr. Docter attributed Nebraska Tire's growth to small tire dealerships in the state going out of business, several of whose owners have called him and asked if he was interested in buying their stores.
``It's not that we've gone into a tire store and took over when it went broke. But I think...there's a lot of dealers who've been in the business a long time that are looking to exit,'' he explained, adding that in some cases Nebraska Tire did buy those stores while in others those businesses cost too much. Nevertheless, if the towns where those exiting dealers were located offered business opportunities, Mr. Docter said Nebraska Tire went there anyway and opened up its own shop.
``In one of those towns we opened up in there were two tire stores-an independent and a Firestone store,'' he said. ``The Firestone store closed, so this other dealer was the only one left in town.''
Nebraska Tire then went in and opened a store in a different building in that town to offer consumers a choice, he said, noting that small-town dealerships in particular have exited the business.
The dealership isn't limiting itself to Nebraska. Mr. Docter said the company is considering locations in Kansas, Colorado and Iowa.
Nebraska Tire sells primarily passenger and light truck tires, but its agricultural tire business also has been growing-even more than doubling-in the past four years, he said. The dealership added five service trucks in the past five years to serve its ag customers. A small portion of its total business is selling retreads and truck tires-about $2 million-but only because of some locations opening along an interstate, according to Mr. Docter.
He said Nebraska Tire in the past five years opened three stores that were cash and carry only-customers would buy the tires at discounts and have other dealers mount them on their vehicles. But he said Nebraska Tire has since converted those stores to full service because of hostility from other tire dealers.
``As we grew the market share, the local tire dealers that were around us that used to mount them for their customers didn't like us in the area taking their market share and refused to mount our tires,'' Mr. Docter said.
Though Nebraska Tire is eyeing a bigger piece of the market, Mr. Docter admitted that the dealership is having trouble finding qualified store managers and service people and has resorted to advertising in national publications to find help.
``We look for people in our operation that we can move on up,'' he told Tire Business. ``With the growth that we've had, it's tough. You don't have enough good, trusted people you can move into those slots. We've had to go to the outside and hire away other store managers....We've had some growing pains, no doubt about it, but we've put on regional sales managers to try to help us out with that situation.''
A member of the Del-Nat Tire Corp. private brand group, Nebraska Tire carries BFGoodrich, Michelin, Yokohama, Triangle, Mohawk and several private brands. The dealership was incorporated in 1997 under the Nebraska Tire banner.
Prior to 1997, it was a single location doing business as Firth Cooperative. Its parent, Countryside Cooperative, was founded 55 years ago and has 3,000 stockholders, according to Mr. Docter, who is the tire division's top executive. Countryside Cooperative's ag division includes grain, feed, fertilizer and petroleum products.