ORLANDO, Fla.As American Tire Distributors Inc.'s (ATD) Tire Pros franchise program grows toward the 700 outlet mark, the company is rolling out a series of marketing, advertising and training initiatives designed to reinforce the impression that the Tire Pros retailer is the definitive expert in his or her market.
Wes Stephenson, vice president of operations, told several hundred Tire Pros dealers attending the group's 2015 National Dealer Business Conference at Disney World in Orlando that a key goal of the program's initiatives is to help dealers become the repair shop customers refer to as my mechanic.
Citing lyrics from the Cheers TV show theme song, Mr. Stephenson said car owners want to have a trusted adviser who's also involved in his or her local community.
The new programs are being launched after a year that saw the Tire Pros program grow by 75 stores to 635 locations nationwide. The program now counts 460 owners, according to Tire Pros President Dan Brown, including 86 with multiple locations and 261 single-location owners.
ATD now has Tire Pros locations in 41 states, including the first in New Jersey and New York. The network is now nearly three times the size it was in 2009 after ATD took it over and began revamping it.
Tire Pros continues to recruit new dealers as well, Mr. Brown said, and should exceed 700 locations this year on the way toward 1,000. ATD anticipates expanding the Tire Pros network into New England this year, he said. That would leave just five statesAlaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan and North Dakotawithout Tire Pros stores.
Collective sales volume by the network of Tire Pros dealers was up 15 percent over 2013, Mr. Brown said.
B. Quick Chadwick, director of marketing, presented the dealers with a range of new marketing opportunites, including:
c Plans for a national consumer advertising program, buoyed by a $1 million commitment from ATD and for which Tire Pros is pitching a $100 per month per location dealer contribution for up to $750,000 more. This could tie in with Tire Pros' plans to partner with a number of college athletic conferences. (More details further on in this article.)
c Increased emphasis on a consistent store appearance, enhanced by ProView images generated by ATD vendor Accomplish Results of potential exterior and interior renovations to put the Tire Pros identity more into the public view;
c Launch of Tire Pros Rewards, a cloud-based tire and auto service marketing platformdeveloped and administered by MyCarCare Rewardsthat provides customer loyalty incentives. Customers get one point for every dollar spent, which they then can redeem with the dealer.
Community Tire Pros Owners Howard and Pat Fleischmann and Kim Sigman worked with the developer of CarCareRewards to fine-tune the ideawhich they market under the High Mile Club.
c Introduction of Professor Tire, the Tire Pros mascot, an owl wearing round glasses with rims that look like tires.
c Support of Independent We Stand, a movement of independent business owners that seeks to educate consumers on the benefits of shopping at local stores.
c Plans to launch two appsa hassle-free app for customers that will provide them with appointment scheduling assistance, and an answers app designed to help educate consumers about tires, tire care, etc., that will help underscore Tire Pros goal of becoming the local experts.
c The opportunity to tie in with the Weather Channel, which would allow dealers to offer geo-target premium ads across multiple platformsthe Weather Channel website, mobile devices, iPads, etc.to people who are checking the weather in their ZIP code.
c A partnership with Pandora Media Inc. to tap into the Pandora Radio music streaming and automated music recommendation service.
c Four quarterly sales promotions in conjunction with key vendors, including a Tire-riffic tax refund sale in February and a Celebrate Independents Day sale in June/July.
c Dropping the fee structure for the Tire Pros credit card to $25 (minimum application fee) from $185.
Additionally Tire Pros is negotiating with five major college conferencesBig 10, Southeast Conference, Big 12, Pac 12 and Atlantic Coast Conferenceto establish some form of partnership status, Mr. Chadwick said. This follows Tire Pros' negotiating to be the official tire retail partner of the ACC last year.
On the training front, Tire Pros is enhancing its training efforts, adding a PROS (Professional Retail Operations & Sales) component aimed at franchisee store personnel. This series of training sessions will be held throughout the year in each region, stressing basics such as phone etiquette, wheel sales, tire protection plans, credit card sales, etc.
The Tire Pros University, held just once annually, will now be refocused more on business acumen for owners, Mr. Stephenson said, and can be considered more like graduate level.
In addition, the new dealer orientation session will be extended by a day to 23/4 days to make it more worthwhile.
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