So, who's No. 1?
Both TBC Corp., parent of Tire Kingdom Inc., and Discount Tire Co., the nation's largest independent tire retailer for the past three years, have legitimate claims on the title.
Tire Kingdom, by virtue of its takeover of Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s National Tire & Battery (NTB) chain late last year, has 600-plus retail stores under its control and continues to add two or three a month.
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Discount Tire is keeping pace with Tire Kingdom, opening an average of 3.5 stores a month over the past year to hit 555 stores in 18 states. From a revenue point of view, though, Discount Tire is outpacing Tire Kingdom comfortably, posting $1.7 billion in sales in 2003-an average of $3.23 million per store-vs. Tire Kingdom's $734 million, or roughly $1.24 million per store.
Even Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. posted higher sales last year-$949.5 million-than Tire Kingdom, with half the number of stores and had a per-store average, $3.25 million, on par with Discount Tire's. But TBC is on track to post more than $1 billion in retail sales this year, pushing the proforma per-store average close to $1.9 million.
In all, TBC now operates 600-plus retail stores-under the Tire Kingdom, Merchant's Tire and NTB names-in 24 states, primarily east of the Mississippi River, plus 572 Big O franchises in 22 states and 35 more in British Columbia.
The next largest chains are all familiar names from a year ago: Best One Tire & Service, No. 4 with 144 stores (up three); Kal Tire, No. 5 with 128 stores (up 14, including 11 Sears Auto Centre outlets); Fountain Tire, No. 6 with 113 stores (unchanged) including 72 that are owned 50-50 with the store managers; Somerset Tire Service, No. 7 with 106 stores (up two); Big 10 Tire Stores-celebrating its 50th year in business-No. 8 with 93 stores (up four); Belle Tire Distributors, No. 9 with 66 stores (up six); and Town Fair Tire Stores, No. 10 with 63 stores (up two).
Outside of the top 10 dealerships, the biggest climber of the year was Scher Tire Inc., up to 27th from 45th based on the acquisition of nine Superior Tire stores in Las Vegas.
Not included in the ranking is Monro Muffler Brake Inc., whose tire-related revenue until recently was less than 10 percent of sales. But after adding 76 tire-oriented stores in the past two years via acquisition-Kimmel Automotive (34 stores), Frasier Tire Co.'s 10 retail outlets, Mr. Tire Inc. (37 stores) and Donald B. Rice Tire Co.'s five retail stores (See story on page 38)-Monro's tire revenue has risen to about 20 percent of sales. In fiscal 2005, that could hit $70 million or more, based on Monro's half-year results.
Nearly half (48) of the top 100 independent dealerships added stores in the past year, vs. only 11 that showed a net loss in stores. The 106 stores ranked this year grew by a net of 437 stores to 4,246 stores; of those added, at least 276 were by acquisition.
The average store sales for all dealerships surveyed by Tire Business was $1.88 million, up slightly over last year. Regarding average per-store revenue, Belle Tire lines up behind Les Schwab and Discount Tire at an estimated $2 million per outlet, then come Dunlap & Kyle/Hesselbein Tire, Ted Wiens Tire and Peerless Tyre at $1.84 million, $1.8 million and $1.71 million, respectively.
Ten of the top ranked dealerships are affiliated with American Car Care Centers (ACCC) Inc., representing 548 outlets.
Close behind is Tire Alliance Groupe (TAG), with seven dealerships in the Top 100 covering 437 outlets.
In addition to the 106 dealerships listed here with 10 or more stores, TB has identified nearly two dozen more throughout the U.S. that operate eight or more stores.
Nine new companies in the top 100 ranking this year are:
* President Tire Canada (No. 47), which added 17 Sears Auto Centre outlets to bring its company-owned holdings to 23. President Tire also counts 214 franchised outlets in its extended network.
* Big O Tires Las Vegas (tied for No. 63), which doubled its size in the past year to 16 outlets, primarily by taking over seven former Superior Tire stores in Las Vegas previously co-owned by TBC and Goodyear.
* Nebraska Tire and Wholesale Tire Distributors Inc. (WTD), tied for 76th with 12 stores each. Firth, Neb.-based Nebraska Tire opened three outlets in the past year, while Salt Lake City, Utah-based WTD is an ACCC wholesaler that also operates retail stores under the Plains Tire & Battery and Discount Tire & Automotive names.
* Chabill's Tire Service L.L.C. of Morgan City, La., Elliott Tire & Service Centers of Seattle, Englewood Tire Distributors Inc. of Lyndhurst, N.J., and Robertson Tire Inc. of Tulsa, Okla., all tied for 93rd with 10 stores each after growing by one store each in the past year.
Among those disappearing from the top 100 ranking were: Mr. Tire Inc., No. 22 last year with 37 stores, acquired by Monro; David Early Tire & Service Centers, No. 59 last year with 18 stores, acquired by Bridgestone/Firestone; Superior Tire, No. 64 last year with 17 outlets, nine of which were acquired by Scher Tire Inc. and eight of which by Big O Tires of Las Vegas; and Palmetto Tire, No. 91 last year with 10 outlets, five of which were sold or closed.