NORWELL, Mass.With improvements in all its channels of operation, Sullivan Tire & Auto Service remains optimistic about the second half of the year.
The company has been improving customer service and aims to boost its online presence by putting a greater focus on mobile and tablet traffic to the company's website. And it has seen an uptick in its auto repair service so far this year.
Our sales are ahead vs. the year previous, said Paul Sullivan, vice president of marketing for Sullivan Tire, which operates in the retail, commercial and wholesale realms.
We've put an awful lot of time and resources into improving the execution and the customer experience, so our sales are subsequently improving.
Mr. Sullivan said consumers are starting to feel a little bit better about investing in their automobile because the cost of fuel has remained somewhat containedit hasn't skyrocketed.
He referenced AAA Inc., stating, We saw an uptick in the number of people who took driving holidays over Memorial Day weekendso Sullivan Tire is very optimistic about this trend for future holidays this year.
Mr. Sullivan had anticipated a sort of slow ramp-up in the economy for 2013. Yet, the dealership has grown the business substantially in terms of the footprint of Sullivan Tire in all channelswhether it be retail, commercial or our wholesale distribution. We're geared up and we're showing signs of improvement in all channels.
The dealership remains confident for the year, Mr. Sullivan told Tire Business, as the economy improves and employment increases in some industries.
Sullivan Tire hasn't let the economy impede its expansion plans. The company recently opened its 66th retail storein Portland, Maine, its 15th outlet in that state. The dealership also operates 15 commercial truck tire centers throughout Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, in addition to its wholesale business.
Mr. Sullivan said he sees consumers starting to feel a bit more confident in their spending.
That translates to more people starting to buy premium tires, Mr. Sullivan said, whereas three or four years ago many customers were just trying to get byusually with the cheapest deals they could find.
He has observed that customers now are loaded with information when they come into your store because they do a lot of research online. So if you take the time and explain to them exactly what they're buying and what are the features and benefits of one tire vs. the other, I think it becomes a fairly easy decision for them.
One reason he has seen some consumers sticking more to middle of the line tires instead of the premium ones, he said, is the number of vehicles in a household.
When you get down to households with four automobiles, usually that fourth automobilewhich is a much, much older vehiclethey just want to keep it running, keep it on the road.
The average age of vehicles coming into Sullivan Tire's shops continues to rise, Mr. Sullivan said. The company also is starting to see the average invoice click up a little bit, he said, noting thatperhaps thanks to the slightly improving economypeople seem to be spending a little more to get repairs done. Previously, he found some consumers were doing one smaller repair and then the next time they'd come in to the shop they might do another one.
So we are seeing the average invoice go up in terms of auto repair, he said.
Another area Sullivan Tire is focusing on is its marketing and online presence, said Mark Gillard, head of advertising.
The company puts together a three-month calendar, he said, so it can be flexible in the marketing plans.
Mr. Gillard said the dealership has a lot of technology coming out with the Internet and mobile marketing and some re-targeting things that we're working on that will be coming out in the summertime.
The company is working on a campaign for Facebook content to try to drive up the community there and trying some different things with social media, he said.
We're just trying to tie in on those technologies in the new marketing.
Looking at the analytics on its website, Mr. Gillard said Sullivan Tire determined lots more people (are) coming in through mobile or tablets, so we are focusing in on that as well this year.
Mr. Sullivan said the best any business can do is work hard to make positive relations with customers.
We've been doing this a long time, he said.
The people are building on their reputation by providing great service; we think that's the only way to go.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143.