Maybe you read the comment in a recent letter to the editor in this newspaper. In it a tire dealer advised those seeking tire service ``to never have your vehicle serviced at a store that sells underwear.''
At first read, that seemed like a witty response to a question of where customers should go for tire service. Should they trust a ``big box'' store to service their vehicle's tires properly? Or should they go to a tire dealer if they want the work done right?
The implication from the author suggested the latter-that a place like a warehouse club that doesn't focus all of its attention on tires and related services can't possibly do the job as well as a focused, owner-operated professional dealership.
But tire dealers shouldn't be too quick to dismiss such competitors.
In today's fast-paced world, many customers might find that having their vehicle serviced at a store that sells underwear is a good thing as long as the service provider does a professional job.
It allows them to accomplish two things at once-shop for clothes and other personal needs and get their vehicle serviced or repaired. Not a bad thing when you're crunched for time.
That's the key: professional, knowledgeable and convenient service. If an outlet offers these, it can make a customer for life. Notice we didn't say anything about price.
Over the years, independent tire dealers have done a great job of maintaining their dominance in the retail tire marketplace.
If you look at the most recent statistics, local, regional and national tire dealerships together controlled an estimated 69 percent of the replacement passenger tire market in 2004, according to Rubber Manufacturers Association data.
But the competitiveness of the retail tire market is changing.
More and more retail service outlets are adding tires to their service mix with an eye on boosting sales and attracting and retaining customers that not too many years ago probably would have patronized their friendly local tire dealer.
These businesses, which include car dealerships, muffler and brake chains, mass merchandisers and warehouse clubs, have the financial heft and marketing savvy to drive tire customers into their service bays.
And they want tire dealers' business. Just listen to the words of Doug Stein, parts sales and marketing manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.:
``Definitely, we see ourselves in competition with independent tire dealers,'' he said in a story in this issue. ``Why wouldn't we?''
Why not indeed, which is why tire dealers should pay close attention to the actions of these competitors-lest they eat your lunch.