Mergers and acquisitions seem to be rampant in the tire aftermarket, as large companies and equity firms buy out small independent tire dealerships looking for an exit strategy or a quick payout.
But small independent tire dealerships continue to be the lifeblood of the retail market. Industry experts say, anecdotally speaking, that independents account for more than 60% of U.S. tire shops.
Smaller shops, which we define as three locations or fewer, account for a significantly smaller, but no less important, part of the success, both past and future, of the tire industry.
This issue of Tire Business spotlights just a few of the hard-working, innovative and independent tire dealers who are the life-blood of the industry. They are free to excel in customer service, develop sales strategies and implement innovations without needing the buy-in of a multi-tiered corporate bureaucracy.
One that is featured in this issue, Fairmount Tire & Rubber Inc. in South Los Angeles, operates a highly successful three-bay dealership and a wholesale business that serves five states. Fairmount Tire recently celebrated its 65th anniversary, honoring its co-founder, 80-year-old Jerry Saunders.
The independent dealer can be quick and agile with implementing new ideas to improve profitability. And they are willing to share their ideas with fellow business owners who struggle with the same challenges.
The dealers have told us that one of the biggest challenges they face is finding and hiring experienced employees, especially tire technicians.
Tire technicians are vital service employees who often deal with a low pay and physically strenuous, often dangerous, work.
So we soundly support Purcell Tire & Service Centers' new effort to recognize and honor the tire technician with a tribute decal created by Mason Hess, past president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and director of the mining division at Purcell Tire.
The decal can be applied to service trucks and store windows as a tribute to tire technicians and the hard work they do installing and servicing tires.
The decal reads: "With admiration and gratitude, thank you to all the tire technicians that keep our industry running smoothly, efficiently and safely. Thank you tire techs ... you are the solid foundation the tire industry stands on."
Hess said he wanted to publicize the importance of the tire technician, one of those unsung heroes who help make many independent tire dealers successful.
"We want to start a revolution, if you will, about, 'Let's thank the tire guy,'" he said.
Showing appreciation for tire technicians, and all employees, will attract more people to the profession. Showing appreciation can range from a simple, daily "thank you," to offering competitive pay and benefits, and positive working conditions.
Spencer Carruthers recently offered his employees at Kenwood Tire Co. 100% health care benefits and weekends off and he said he noticed they are now happier coming to work.
As many business owners will attest: Happy employees make happy customers. We applaud these efforts.