PORTLAND, Ore.—Tire Factory Inc. is marking its 30th anniversary this year by setting several goals to make the buying group of more than 220 locations throughout the western U.S. larger and more uniform in appearance.
During the group's annual dealer meeting in Portland, Feb. 20-22, the Tire Factory board announced several goals for the year:
- Increase its dealership count by 25;
- Grow its presence in the Denver area, where the group recently relocated its distribution center into a larger facility;
- Urge all its members to participate in Tire Industry Association-certified training; and
- Encourage its member stores to adopt a uniform interior design unveiled during the meeting.
The buying group was founded in 1984 by five tire dealers—Al Taylor, Roger Madsen, Bob Wendling, Dick Cockran and Nick Hodel. Tire dealers Klyde Thompson, Bud Holden Sr. and Dick Harris joined soon after.
Since then Tire Factory, which this year became a cooperative, has grown to 154 members with 221 locations in 15 western states and three distribution centers, in Portland, Denver and Salt Lake City. Last year, the group added 29 dealerships and this year hopes to boost its membership in the Colorado/Nebraska/Kansas region that would be supported by its new 40,000-sq.-ft. Denver distribution center.
Each location is independently owned and keeps its original name with "Tire Factory" added to the signage. Over the years, the group has pursued a more uniform identity across its network. This year, Tire Factory unveiled a prototype interior store design with fixtures and displays featuring Tire Factory logos and colors and is encouraging its members to adopt the scheme when they renovate the interior of their stores.
The group also adopted a tag line to be included in its TV advertising that emphasizes the local ownership of the Tire Factory locations: "At Tire Factory, you'll always have the owner's name on it."
Tire Factory has redesigned its website with an updated look, product selection function, content management system and integration with Traction Pro software.
The website also now features an option for dealers to display tire prices and accept orders online.
Posting pricing on the Internet was a point of controversy at Tire Factory's 2013 meeting—with most members arguing against the idea. However, when the issue was discussed again at this year's meeting, some of those dealers were changing their views.
"I was against it, but now I think I was just being stodgy," Gary Turner of TurnThom Tire Factory in Medford, Ore., told Tire Business, echoing similar comments from fellow dealers. "We need to attract young customers."
Mr. Turner's website offers visitors an option to request a price quote and the dealership will call them back, he said. Other dealers said they want to pursue online pricing at a cautious pace, such as only offering prices on a loss leader to draw in customers.
Tire Factory CEO John Kreidel also noted a shift in opinion after a majority of the members surveyed recently said they were open to the idea of online pricing.
The sticking point among the membership is that diversity in their markets and local economies across numerous states makes a uniform pricing structure unworkable.
Mr. Kreidel said Tire Factory will leave it to the various advertising zones in its network to decide if they want to post prices and on what products. "We need to be smart about this," he said. "Missoula (Mont.) is not going to have the same prices as Seattle."
Meanwhile, Tire Factory will be targeting the ATV market this year in its seasonal promotions.
"Nobody really advertises this kind of stuff...," said Keith Morris, Tire Factory's director of merchandising. "We can be the best in this space and, frankly, in this space there is a lot of money and we're going to get it."
The group's promotions in May and in the fall will advertise ATV and specialty tire (ST) offerings and services with promo kits, signage and Web advertising.
Mr. Morris said the goal of the promotions is: "When you think of ST, when you think of ATV, you think of Tire Factory."
The network also will try to corner the market on winter driving preparation.
At the end of November, Tire Factory will launch a campaign to promote products, tire chains and maintenance services to prepare vehicles for winter.
"This is where we separate ourselves from the competition. This is when people say, 'Where can I go to get everything I need? What's the one-stop shop that I can go find it?' It's Tire Factory," he said.
To reach this reporter: kmccarron @crain.com; 330-865-6127