OVERLAND PARK, Kan.K&M Tire Inc. is ramping up the scope and nature of the value-added services and benefits it offers its growing customer base, an initiative the wholesaler's top executives feel is paramount to the firm's continued growth.
When our customers do better, then so do we, is how Cheryl Gossard, vice president of Delphos, Ohio-based K&M, portrayed her company's value-added initiatives in a conversation with Tire Business during the company's mid-January 2016 dealer meeting in Overland Park.
Headlining the list of new services being offered is in-house website development, which K&M is offering free-of-charge to customers, especially those flying the Mr. Tire and Big 3 Tire associate dealer colors.
During the meeting, K&M disclosed that the number of dealers participating in the Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire programs grew by 215 last year and now totals 775 out of the 5,000 or so customers the wholesaler serves. Annual sales now exceed $350 million.
During the meeting K&M President Ken Langhals stressed that 2016 will be a year of community and partnership, sharing with the dealers at the meeting the efforts of the company's philanthropic arm, K&M Cares, and his family's long-time support of Food for the Poor Inc., a Coconut Creek, Fla.-based charity that funds projects in 17 countries worldwide on various levels.
K&M vendor Yokohama Tire Corp. donated $20,000 to K&M Cares, which the wholesaler split into two gifts$10,000 for Food for the Poor and $10,000 to a K&M customer/Yokohama Advantage dealer to donate further.
The dealership selected was Ronda Auto Centers of Grand Rapids, Mich. Owners Dan and Tim Ronda opted to give $5,000 each to Kids Food Basket and Volunteers in Service.
Mr. Langhals encouraged dealers to be philanthropically active in their own communities. Angel Aloma, executive director of Food for the Poor, noted that K&M had set up an online donation link.
He also told the gathering that Food for Poor returns more than 98 percent of donated funds to its charitable efforts. The group delivered more than $1 billion in aid in 2015.
The decision to offer in-house Web development came from a five-person customer service team K&M formed last year to focus on delivery issues and other problems, according to Bonnie Marlow, assistant managing programs director, who noted that expanding and improving those services is essential.
Ms. Gossard stressed that K&M recognizes the importance of effective website development to dealers' success, noting that dealers often don't have enough time or the necessary skills to focus on that. It's something we can really help with.
Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire program members had access to exclusive rebates from 11 tire companies in 2015 that paid nearly $300,000 back, according to Kevin Knebel, marketing and programs manager, on top of rebates from auto parts companies that were expected to hit or exceed $400,000 when the 2015 figures were finalized.
Some of the tire rebates could be doubled, he noted, if the transaction was conducted using the Mr. Tire or Big 3 Tire branded Synchrony credit card.
The trade show held during the event attracted 26 tire manufacturers/distributors and 20 non-tire vendors representing automotive parts, batteries, computer software, consumer financing, etc.
2015 was another year of growth for the Delphos, Ohio-based wholesaler, which acquired the wholesale tire business of Kelle Oil Co. in Oklahoma, as well as Midwest Tire & Muffler Inc. in North and South Dakota.
K&M added 19 delivery routes and now has 190 routes operating out of 20 distribution centers to reach dealers across 22 states, from Montana to Texas to Ohio, where K&M's newest warehousea 37,000-sq.-ft. facility in Solon, Ohioopened last year to support dealers in northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania. This scale of operation puts most customers within about 150 miles, or two and half hours, of a warehouse.
Asked about growth possibilities in 2016 and beyond, Mr. Langhals said the company's distribution footprint is pretty much where we want to be. There are growth opportunities within the footprint, and we'll look first within the footprint for growth.
He cited the Midwest Tire acquisition as an example of this position.
Scheduling the 2016 dealer conference in Overland Park played well with the K&M crowd, many of whom were able to drive to the Kansas City suburb. As a result, nearly 400 dealers attended the two-day event Jan. 14-15.
During the firm's trade show, K&M and vendors Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Hankook Tire America Corp. gave away cars to member attendees. Chris Moore of Lonnie's Tire in Independence, Mo., took home a 2016 Dodge Charger R/T courtesy of Cooper, while TMATire Muffler Alignmentin Sioux Falls, S.D., won a 2016 BMW 3 Series sponsored by Hankook.
K&M also inaugurated a Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shop Award, which Hankook agreed to sponsor with support from O'Reilly Auto Parts. The winner was McMahon Tire Service in Ft. Wayne, Ind.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6145.