Barron's Wholesale Tire Inc. is pushing ahead with massive expansion plans that will give the Jacksonville-based wholesaler 15 warehouses in four states within a year, investing roughly $10 million.
Within five to 10 years, though, Barron's Wholesale wants to have distribution centers in each of the nine states it now serves-Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
In Florida, where Barron's Wholesale operates eight warehouses, the company recently expanded its Fort Lauderdale and Ocala warehouses to 35,000 and 38,000 square feet, respectively, and is working on a $3 million expansion to one of its two locations in Jacksonville, which also includes the corporate offices. A grand opening will be held there in April.
Six other warehouses are slated to join the fold by year-end 2006: in Orlando, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Columbia, S.C., by the end of the first quarter; in Pensacola, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., by mid-year; and in Birmingham, Ala., by the third quarter.
Barron's existing warehouses are in Fort Lauderdale, Tallahassee, Ocala, Tampa, Cocoa, Fort Myers and Jacksonville, Fla., and Macon, Ga.
The expansions reflect the firm's growth. Sales are expected to reach $92 million this year, up 26 percent from $73 million last year, the company said.
``Since 2001, we have experienced unprecedented growth,'' the company said in a statement. ``In the last 12 quarters, we have grown a steady 30 percent each quarter. The construction of new facilities and expansion of existing ones is necessary to accommodate our rapidly expanding customer base.''
Barron's growth also is coming from expanded product lines. The company recently added Continental and General tire brands plus Dick Cepek lines. Barron's Wholesale also is an authorized dealer for Cooper, Starfire, Kumho, Maxxis, Pro Comp, GT, Primewell, TowMaster and Nankang brands. The company said it plans to add more major brands in the future.
The company was founded in Jacksonville in 1989 with one warehouse, ``which was very small,'' said President and CEO David Barron. Within two years the company started adding distribution points.
As the wholesaler continues to grow, Mr. Barron said he has no intention of weeding out smaller accounts.
``Absolutely not,'' he said. ``We're going to continue to even push harder for the smaller customers out there because the more revenue we can put on the trucks, the better.''
Mr. Barron said the wholesaler's customers range from the four-tires-a-week buyers to dealers that do $4.5 million in business with Barron's.
``The small dealers are just as important to us as the big dealers are,'' he said.
That strategy is becoming more rare, especially as gas prices climb-and hover-into higher territories. Mr. Barron contends that small shops buying four tires a week are more valuable than once thought. For example, he said, many of the tires they buy aren't the $29 economy tires like in days past. Instead, many are replacements for ultra-high performance original equipment tires, cashing in around $80 to $100 a tire.
``So four tires is not that bad of an order anymore,'' he said.
That still doesn't mean Barron's Wholesale is immune from gas price shocks. Mr. Barron said so far the wholesaler has not had to pass on fuel surcharges, but the company is trying to be smart about its deliveries.
``We're certainly trying to be very efficient with our routes, but yet not interrupt the service that we're giving our dealers,'' Mr. Barron told Tire Business. ``Because we feel like a lot of the edge that we have is to be able to give our dealers good service.''
That service philosophy includes stocking as many SKUs as possible-a theory punctuated even more by the needs of Barron's Wholesale's small customers, who simply can't stockpile all that inventory. Mr. Barron said this perspective is becoming the company's edge over its competition.
``Certainly it costs more to keep more inventory,'' he acknowledged. ``But we feel like it pays off to have the stuff when customers call us in a timely manner. So it is costly but we certainly feel like it's worthwhile to be a full-service dealer and have everything a customer needs when they need it.''
Barron's Wholesale also prides itself on its ``HotShot'' delivery service. The company says it can deliver tires to any dealer within a 50-mile radius of one of its warehouses in about an hour.
``In effect, we can be a dealer's tire warehouse,'' Mr. Barron said in a separate statement. ``Even the smallest dealer can offer customers an incredible range of automotive, passenger, commercial, all-terrain, utility and recreational tires, place that order with Barron's Wholesale Tire and have the tires delivered usually within the hour.''