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Want to survive? Know your market

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It's uncommon for a business person to speak frankly about how difficult competition is today, but that's exactly what Spencer Carruthers did when asked why he launched a mobile tire service business at his one-location tire dealership in Massachusetts.

“Car dealers are already kicking our a**, so to speak,” he said bluntly. But instead of griping about it and stubbornly doing things the same old way, Mr. Carruthers opted for a new tact—something car dealers likely wouldn't do. He decided to take his tire service business to the customer, rather than waiting for the customer to come to him. “I really think this is the future and that's why I've done it,” he said.

Mr. Carruthers is banking on this added service offered by his Kenwood Tire & Auto Service to draw new customers, attract others from competitors and ensure his dealership's survival. 

This issue of Tire Business features our annual ranking of North America's largest tire dealerships. It in--cludes several stories about tire dealers implementing new approaches to stay relevant and successful in what has become a free-for-all battle to woo the tire-buying public.

To survive, independent tire dealers must understand their local marketplaces better than they ever have and develop new ways of meeting customers' changing needs and expectations to stay a step or two ahead of the competition.

Another New England tire dealer, Bob Katz, is adapting his dealership to address changing demographics in East Bos-ton, Mass., where his Nu-Tread Tire & Auto Service Center is located. Once predominately an Italian neighborhood, the area now claims a large Hispanic population.

To serve and attract this new demographic, Nu-Tread Tire has made its website bilingual, posted signs outside the shop in Spanish and hired several Spanish-speaking employees. Today half of the dealership's sales come from Hispanic customers. By adapting to his changing customer base, Mr. Katz has kept his dealership viable.

Meanwhile, Black's Tire & Auto Service in North Carolina continues to experiment with whether or not to post tire prices online. Its latest approach: hiring a full-time Internet salesman to respond to the 30 to 50 daily online requests it receives for price quotes.

This effort combines two strategies. It allows customers to learn about the company's pricing but lets them do it while talking to a person who can answer questions about different tire options and price points.

“Consumers like to shop around, but they really like that confidence that they are making the right decision by having a real person to communicate with,” said Black's Tire's Ryan Benton.

The leaders of these dealerships aren't afraid of change. They are trying new approaches aimed at keeping their dealerships strong and viable.

Innovation and the nerve to apply it are two ingredients needed for ongoing success.
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TB Reader Poll

Previous | Published March 18, 2019

Where can you expect to see the most growth in 2019?

Tire sales
45% (34 votes)
General automotive service
15% (11 votes)
Brakes, shocks and other undercar services
7% (5 votes)
Add-on business
15% (11 votes)
Anywhere we can get it.
19% (14 votes)
Total votes: 75
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