BLOOMINGDALE, Ill.—Bridgestone Americas' retail business unit is on track to open 45 tire and automotive service centers this year in 16 states, pushing the firm's store network to more than 2,250 locations nationwide by year-end. Bridgestone Retail Store Operations L.L.C. (BSRO), as the unit is known, has opened 15 stores so far this year, in six states—Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin.
"We started strong in the first quarter and into the second, and our plans are to keep that momentum going through the rest of 2013," said Jim Blecha, vice president of real estate and assets, BSRO. The remaining 30 stores are scheduled to open in Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, North and South Carolina, Ohio and Washington.
Roughly 38 of the new stores are going to be Firestone Complete Auto Care locations; the others will be the firm's Tire Plus and Wheel Works brands, Mr. Blecha said. Bridgestone Retail also will close a limited number of outdated outlets or stores in locations that no longer make sense this year, he said. Bridgestone Retail typically budgets $2.2 million to $2.5 million per new store, Mr. Blecha said, including acquiring the real estate.
It prefers to own the properties where it builds retail stores. The tire company has a handful of different store formats to choose from, he added, ranging from 8,200 to 8,500 square feet, all with 10 service bays. The new stores average 10 employees, including store managers, the company said.
Bridgestone began changing the identity and look of its retail stores in 2005 to Firestone Complete Auto Care, after decades as Firestone Tire & Service Centers. The company incorporates a number of ecology-related features into its new stores, Mr. Blecha said, including reflective roofing, "flexipave" side-walks that incor-porate crumb rubber from scrap tires, "occupant-centric" lighting schemes and priority parking for hybrid vehicle owners.
"In terms of company-owned tire and automotive service centers, we're the largest in our industry, and in the world," he continued. "It's important to us to expand our network, but even more important that we do it strategically, in a way that makes sense for our business and that will best serve the needs of our customers." Bridgestone operates company-owned retail stores in 47 states and in Washington, D.C., lacking stores in Alaska, Maine and Vermont.
It has opened nearly 300 stores in the past five years. All locations offer a variety of automotive services and products, including new tires and batteries, vehicle inspections, oil changes, alignments, air-conditioning services, brake work, engine repair and tune-up, transmission service and more. The firm's retail stores generate about 70 percent of their revenue from maintenance and service work and 30 percent from tires.
The company's retail network is heavily involved in Bridgestone's "One Team, One Planet" environmental pledge to assure that for every tire it sells in the U.S., eventually one scrapped tire will be used for a valuable purpose. The business unit also gets involved in philanthropic endeavors.
In 2011, for example, Bridgestone raised more than $1.1 million for the Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) and the Pediatric Cancer Foundation (PCF) through its Round Up Program, an in-store fundraising campaign.