AKRON (Aug. 4, 2016) — The retail tire industry is not what many people would consider to be a hotbed for innovation and new ideas.
Replacement tires, for the most part, are distributed and sold much as they always have been — with distributors selling them to tire dealers who, in turn, sell them to customers in their local communities.
The former Mueller Tire & Brake, which had 19 retail stores in the Greater Cleveland market, was like that until owners Dean and Scott Mueller and family gambled the company's future on what they perceived to be a new, burgeoning business opportunity — distributing tires to new car dealerships.
The brothers correctly grasped that with new cars lasting longer, car dealerships would be looking for new ways to attract customers back to their locations for service more regularly and to enhance sales.
They also correctly surmised that car dealerships already had the customer base, infrastructure and technicians in place to add tire sales relatively easily to their auto service mix.
So they took the risk, selling the dealership's retail locations to TBC Corp. and focusing exclusively on distributing tires and light vehicle maintenance products like wiper blades and brake pads to car dealerships.
Today, 14 years after launching Cleveland-based Dealer Tire L.L.C., the company serves more than 10,000 auto dealerships from 43 distribution centers in the U.S. and generates more than $1 billion in annual sales.
Many tire dealers today are struggling, in part, because there are more outlets then ever selling tires, including the car dealerships serviced by Dealer Tire.
But the future, as demonstrated by the Muellers, remains ripe for entrepreneurs and innovators who can foresee and understand the future needs of companies and customers and who are willing to take a chance on developing ways of providing those needed products and services in a timely and economical fashion.
To help make Dealer Tire a success, the Muellers also tapped into new technology, developing tools and software to help its auto dealer customers inspect, select and sell more tires.
Through its marketing department, the company also provides promotional help to its car dealer customers.
And Dealer Tire is not content to stand still. It is rolling out nationally an online e-commerce site called RightTurn.com that helps consumers find tires that match both their vehicle and driving style and pairs them with car dealerships that can install the tires.
In a staid and relatively slow-to-change industry, Dean and Scott Mueller found a new customer base and a new sales angle for tires. They took a risk and won.
It's a success story that should inspire all tire dealers as they look to grow their businesses in the future.
This editorial appears in the Aug. 1 print edition of Tire Business. Have an opinion on it? Send your comments, or a letter to the editor, to [email protected]. Please include your name, title, official name of your business, the city and state in which it's located, and a daytime phone number and email address at which you can be reached.