SHANGHAICooper Tire & Rubber Co. is looking to embed the Cooper brand in the Chinese consumer's mind through a retail superstore concept it's rolling out in several major cities.
Over the past nine months, the company, together with local dealer partners, has opened Cooper Superfeel Centers in Shanghai, Beijing, Shandong and Cheng-du in an effort to stand out in the marketplace and gain acceptance for our brand among consumers, many of whom are buying their first cars, according to Cooper COO Brad Hughes.
These four Superfeel Centers range in size from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet and offer an array of Cooper and other branded tires for passenger cars, SUVs and other vehicle types in an enhanced shopping environment that features dimensional and interactive displays and large-format video screens.
The centers also offer tire-related services including alignment, balancing and tire repair, as well as other value-added auto services, Cooper said.
The first Superfeel Center opened in November 2014 in Shanghai, Cooper said, followed by the Shandong location in January, the Beijing site in March and the Chengdu site in July. Cooper expects to open centers yet this year in Inner Mongolia and Baoding, but the company declined to say what its goals are beyond that.
The nature of the market and the explosive growth in vehicle ownership in China provide an opportunity for Cooper to team with dealers to build upon our already respected brand in the region with a new retail tire sales and service experience that is an enhancement over what exists today, Mr. Hughes said.
Cooper declined to disclose what share it owns, if any, in the Superfeel Centers, whether they're considered franchises, licences or whatever or its investment in the concept.
Mr. Hughes, senior vice president and COO since January, described the retail tire business in China as highly fragmented with no major distribution channels or household retail names.
Group Michelin, however, claims to have more than 1,100 TyrePlus franchised retail stores in operation throughout China with a goal of 2,900 locations by 2019.
Mr. Hughes also noted that the Superfeel Center concept is part of Cooper's Asian growth strategy, which calls for a significantly expanded presence in China through widened distribution and continued penetration of the OE market. Cooper declined to identify any of its OE contract partners in China, citing competitive reasons.
The Superfeel Center concept is under the direction of Alan Tsaur, senior vice president and general manager of Asia Operations.
Cooper promoted Mr. Hughes in January to responsible for Cooper's worldwide operations throughout North America, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
This report first appeared on www.tirebusiness.com.