Steady, controlled growth was the watchword for independent tire retailers over the past year, with more than half of the dealerships in Tire Business' annual ranking of leading tire retailers adding stores during that time.
Discount Tire Co. of Scottsdale, Ariz., led the growth parade with 45 new stores, followed by Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. of Prineville, Ore., and Kal Tire of Vernon, British Columbia, with 18 stores each.
In terms of percentage growth, though, Enger Auto Service & Tire of Euclid, Ohio, and Royal Tire Inc. of St. Cloud, Minn., stood out, expanding their store counts by about a third each-Enger by five to 12 and Royal by four to 11.
Discount's pace of growth could vault it back to the No. 1 spot by next year if it continues-the chain has opened a dozen new stores since the Aug. 1 closing date for the TB ranking. It already leads the league in sales volume with $1.83 billion in revenue in 2004-$3.2 million per store-and projects sales this year of more than $2 billion.
For the 2005 ranking, though, TBC Corp.'s Tire Kingdom unit, with 612 Tire Kingdom, NTB and Merchant's Tire outlets-up 12 from a year ago-claims the No.1 spot for the third straight year. Sales in 2004 were slightly more than $1 billion, or about $1.67 million per outlet.
There is one new name this year among the top 10, Strauss Discount Auto, No. 8 with 101 stores, and one returnee, ProCare Automotive L.L.C., No. 10 with 92 stores.
South River, N.J.-based Strauss, previously known primarily as a retail parts store in the New York metropolitan area, is revamping its stores in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania to auto service superstores with an average of seven service bays per location. Tires represent about 15 percent of sales, but the percentage is growing.
The chain eventually hopes to grow to 200 locations, according to Glenn Langberg, chairman, CEO and owner.
Independence, Ohio-based ProCare-until four years ago a business unit of BP Oil-has been listed in previous years but was left off in 2004 due to a lack of verifiable information about the company at that time.
After growing to more than 120 stores in 2002 and 2003 after buying an auto service network in Texas, ProCare since has divested or closed those stores and pared its network down to 92 outlets, primarily in Ohio but also in the Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C., metro areas.
Unlike the past few years, the August 2004-August 2005 period saw no major dealership takeovers or mergers, although publicly traded TBC, parent of Tire Kingdom and retail franchiser Big O Tires Inc., is being bought by international trading concern Sumitomo Corp. of America.
The Top 100 dealers (107 actually, due to an 11-way tie for 98th) operated 4,540 outlets, up 169 from 2004. The average dealer network was 42 stores with the median at 22 stores. Average store sales was $1.95 million.
Of other major dealerships in the ranking, No. 4 Best-One Tire & Service stood pat at 144 stores; No. 6 Fountain Tire Corp. consolidated a bit, dropping three stores to 110; No. 7 Somerset Tire Service grew by 3 stores to 109; and Big 10 Tire Stores added three locations to 96.
Nine of the dealerships ranked this year are affiliated with American Car Care Centers Inc., representing 551 outlets, including the Tire Pros outlets affiliated with Ampac Tire Distributors Inc.
There are five dealerships associated with Tire Alliance Groupe (TAG), covering 254 stores directly and 162 other associated outlets. There are five Big O franchisees in the rankings representing 68 stores; in all there are 559 franchised Big O locations in the U.S. and 34 in Canada.
Of the companies new to the rankings this year, Enger Tire and Royal tied for 82nd, along with MFA Oil Co. of Columbia, Mo., which added three outlets for a total of 12 stores, including five Big O franchise outlets.
Besides its own 12 stores, Royal Tire administers the Tire One affiliate program in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, with 262 member dealers.
The final newcomer to the ranking is Steve Shannon Tire & Auto Centers of Bloomsburg, Pa., tied for 97th with 10 stores, up one from last year.
Displaced from the ranking were ETD Discount Tires, Friend's Tire & Hi-Tech Service, Goodguys Tire & Auto Repair and Youngstedt's Inc., all of which sold or closed one or more stores to fall below the 10-store threshold.
Beyond the Top 100, Tire Business has identified at least 117 dealerships with five or more stores, including 26 with eight or more.