The Independent Tire Dealers Group L.L.C. has created an associate membership program for independent dealers who purchase at smaller volumes than current ITDG members.
The new program is designed to help ITDG increase its numbers in its current geographical area in the western U.S. as well as add purchases to the group, which will strengthen its clout, said Ed Long, vice president of sales and marketing.
Mr. Long said the new associate program will address the following issues pertaining to small-volume dealers by:
* Offering program participation with a smaller annual purchase requirement;
* Enabling independent dealers in all types of markets to join forces with a large group;
* Allowing dealers to attain full membership in the group, earning annual volume bonuses; and
* Reducing quarterly dues and reduced penalties with the same buying power.
``We've just found that as we've traveled and gone from major market to major market, there are some opportunities with some guys who don't exactly fit into our current business model'' who could benefit from the buying group, Mr. Long told Tire Business.
So he went to work with ITDG's vendors to develop a smaller-scale program. The result is an associate membership program that requires a little less from dealers but in turn also offers fewer benefits, he said.
``You get the purchasing power of the group, so to speak, but until you become a full-fledged member, you wouldn't get the volume bonus at the back end, at the end of the year,'' Mr. Long explained.
The program's minimum annual purchasing requirement is $100,000-half the amount full members pay, he said. At $300 per quarter, quarterly dues for associate members also are half the amount standard members pay.
Another difference is that ITDG picks up the costs of its members who attend its annual meeting and trade show, but associates who want to attend will have to pay their own way, he said.
Mr. Long said that like ITDG members, associate members have access to all of the group's vendor programs including its new captive insurance program (see related story on page 1), its auto parts, tires and wheel programs and its Car Care One credit card, among other benefits. However, associate members cannot be shareholders in ITDG-that's reserved for full members.
ITDG consists of 95 members including 52 shareholders located in 10 states. The members represent approximately 300 retail tire and service centers.
Mr. Long noted that ITDG has grown in the past two years to include members in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Idaho from its base in California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. He said the group still has gaps to fill in the west and isn't looking at a further expansion into the Midwest or eastern U.S.
To reflect its current vision for growth, ITDG also introduced a tagline to be incorporated with the organization's identification: ``Growing Today for Independents Tomorrow.'' That, according to Mr. Long, emphasizes ITDG's strength in numbers.
``We bounced a couple things around, and it was more than just the Independent Tire Dealer Group,'' he said. ``We're on the move, we're growing today for independents tomorrow, and I purposely played off the word independents.''