I love this time of the year, spring. Here in Michigan the temperatures are warming, daffodils and crocuses are popping up, trees are budding, and birds are chirping like crazy.
But April is a special time that always makes me nostalgic for days gone by. This issue of Tire Business that is dedicated every year to the Commercial Tire Industry and Retreading always has that effect on me because it brings back memories of the American Retreaders' Association (ARA), (which later became the International Tire & Rubber Association) Retread Show.
For more than 30 years up through 1999, this great show, dedicated to retreading and repairing, was held in Louisville usually about a week before the Kentucky Derby. (The last two shows were held in Nashville.)
It was guaranteed that the trees would be flowering, the sun would be shining and — like swallows returning to Capistrano — retreaders from all over North America would flock together to learn new things about running a retread business, visit with longtime friends, and network with new ones both on the exhibition floor as well as in restaurants and hotels all over town.
That show faded into the sunset as the retread industry changed, driven by consolidations and tire manufacturers expanding their proprietary networks of retreaders and retread shops.
Although there were as many as 3,000 retread shops in the 1960s, this number continued to dwindle, so that by 1997 only 1,316 remained, turning out about 17.5 million truck retreads annually.
By 1999, around 800 of the retread plants in operation were tied up with one or more retread system providers, leaving only about 300 shops under the control of truly independent retreaders.
Since a majority of retread equipment suppliers had good market coverage through retread system providers such as Bridgestone/Bandag, Goodyear and/or Michelin, which began holding their own retread exhibitions for their dealers, an annual national show became superfluous.