Wholesale and private brand tire distributor Reliable Tire Distributors will mark its 50th anniversary this year by launching a number of marketing initiatives at a series of dealer meetings/trade shows at its seven distribution centers.
Reliable Tire, considered one of the nation's largest wholesalers with 4,000 dealer customers in 24 states, will kick off the year-long celebration April 1 at a new, larger distribution center in Syracuse, N.Y.
Other activities planned include a revamped Web site that will allow online ordering and sales incentive contests involving Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS), Continental Tire North America Inc. and Michelin Americas Small Tires (MAST), according to David Long, chief operating officer.
Of particular note, Reliable Tire will redouble efforts in the Chicago metro area under an ``Operation Windy City'' umbrella. Dealers in the Chicago area are being invited to a regional trade show in Shaumburg, Ill., on April 22 to hear about four new associate dealer programs, among which is a first-time program being developed together with Hankook Tire America Corp., Mr. Long said.
Reliable is paying particular attention to Chicago, Mr. Long said, because of uncertainties in the marketplace regarding Reliable's presence there after a series of personnel changes in the past few years.
``The time is ripe for new programs, new products and new initiatives,'' said Mr. Long, who succeeded the retiring Joe B. Thomas two and a half years ago as COO.
Among the initiatives being rolled out in the Chicago area are Metro Route A-a twice-daily delivery service-and Totally Reliable Performance-a stepped-up performance tire and wheel program featuring 13 high-performance tire lines and four custom wheel brands.
Reliable will evaluate response to the Metro Route program in Chicago before deciding where else to use it, Mr. Long said. If response is high in Chicago, it might lead to Reliable's having to set up satellite distribution points around the area, he said.
Reliable will disclose details of the Hankook dealer program at the April 22 meeting, Mr. Long said. Hankook is new to Reliable's product offerings in the Chicago area this year; elsewhere Reliable distributes Hankook's Aurora associate brand.
Also new this year in Chicago is Reliable's participation in the Michelin Alliance program.
Reliable hopes to have the expanded performance tire-and-wheel program in place at all seven warehouses by the fourth quarter, Mr. Long said.
The wholesaler is rolling out two major promotions, featuring the Bridgestone and Firestone brands and the Continental and General brands.
The ``Reliable Tire Fabulous 50 Bridgestone/Firestone Promotion'' is a seven-month contest offering a 2007 GMC Yukon Denali as grand prize as well as trips to the 2007 Indianapolis 500 and 2007 Firestone Indy 200 Nashville Race.
Dealers earn chances for purchases of Bridgestone and Firestone tires between March 1 and Sept. 30. Reliable will support the contest with three ``micro promotions'' that will offer Visa debit cards, double spiffs and other incentives that correspond to three Bridgestone/Firestone national consumer promotions.
Details of the second promotion, ``Reliable Tire's Golden Anniversary Promotion'' featuring the Conti and General brands, will be announced later. Reliable will announce the winners at the 2006 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas in November.
In addition to the major brands it carries, Reliable offers a number of entry-level products in various brand names-mostly Asian-sourced-and the Spartan private brand.
Reliable ``relaunched'' the Spartan brand in late 2004/early 2005 when it added production in Asia to complement Goodyear as the domestic manufacturer. At that time it also signed a deal with Universal Cooperatives Inc. to handle the line in its network of warehouses in the central part of the country.
Reliable has marketed the Spartan brand since the early 1980s.
Reliable also sees considerable growth potential in commercial tires, which make up about 12 to 15 percent of the firm's annual sales.
``Our commercial business has grown measurably without our really emphasizing it,'' Mr. Long said. ``We feel we can do a much better job of it in the future.''
Reliable also anticipates ex-panding beyond its existing geographical footprint, most likely via acquisition, but Mr. Long declined to discuss the strategy in detail at this time.
Reliable Tire was started in 1956 by George Simons in Camden, N.J. Richard Betz came in a bit later as an investor and bought the business outright in 1984.
Reliable has been affiliated with Firestone since its inception and with General Tire for about 40 years, Mr. Long said. Sales are approaching $100 million.
Besides Blackwood, Syracuse and Elk Grove Village, Ill., Reliable operates distribution centers in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Hartford, Conn. In Syracuse, Reliable is moving into a 55,000-sq.-ft. center that gives the firm 15,000 more square feet of space.
Reliable estimates its dealership base covers more than half the U.S. population.