AKRON (Nov. 3, 2010) — No matter how you characterize it—making lemonade from lemons, adversity breeds character, etc.—the struggling economy of the past two years has indeed created problems for some—but opportunities for others.
Two cases in point can be found in this year's Tire Business ranking of North America's leading retail tire dealerships.
Ken Towery's Tire & Auto Care in Louisville, Ky., and Town Fair Tire in East Haven, Conn., both took advantage of the down economy in the past year to expand their businesses in big ways, adding seven and six locations, respectively, to their network of stores.
Ken Towery's owner Ken Towery in particular cited the business climate among the reasons for expanding, noting that good real estate is relatively cheap, interest rates are at historic lows and consumers can postpone tire purchases only so long.
Mr. Towery expanded in several ways, including taking over existing stores and opening new locations. With 19 stores in and around Louis-ville, Ken Towery's Tire now commands a dominant presence in its market, where it competes with Michels Tires Plus, Big O Tires Inc., Pep Boys—Manny, Moe & Jack, Firestone and Goodyear company stores, as well as other independents.
“…(B)y strengthening the numbers we have, it'd be very difficult for the competition to come in without 15 or 20 stores,” Mr. Tow¬ery said.
The dealership also has four stores in nearby Lexington, Ky.
Opening new outlets also prompted Mr. Towery and his executive team to take a look at their existing stores and, in a smart business move, they've decided to spruce up the whole network.
Likewise, Town Fair Tire embarked on the largest one-year expansion in the company's 43-year history, increasing the number of stores to 82 locations throughout five New England states. The six locations in the past year are on top of five stores opened in the prior year.
“We don't let the economy dictate when we open stores,” Senior Vice President Mike Barbaro said, noting Town Fair has four stores on the drawing board for next year.
The company also invested in upgrading equipment at all of its stores in a move to improve the quality of service.
Not every company in the top 100 ranking of largest independent tire dealerships was in a position to take advantage of the opportunities in this difficult economy, and some were forced to retrench their operations.
Some dealerships may have sat on the sidelines lamenting the situation. For those dealerships with a strong financial balance sheet and with entrepreneurial leadership, however, the difficult economy of the past two years has meant the chance of a lifetime. Some of them have used the moment to take advantage of acquisitions at reasonable costs, upgrade their locations and position their dealerships better for long-term success.
Better to be bullish on the economy, rather than a slave to it.