4 MORE Things To Know About SEMA (by Jeff Short)

Following on the heels of my last post on attending SEMA (read Part 1), I had the opportunity to speak to the VP of Events and Communications for SEMA, Peter Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 1.32.41 PMMacGillivray. Continuing to think about our customers who are considering whether they should attend SEMA or how to get the most out of it, I was able to ask him some targeted questions related to independent tire dealers and SEMA. Here is a summary of his insights:

1) SEMA’s focus on new products

The number one thing people say they come to see is New Products. SEMA puts an enormous focus on their New Product Showcase. For 2015, submissions are up 100% over last year.

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Here’s an helpful note for Attendees: You can pick up a scanner at the New Products Showcase and scan any items that interest you. Turn in the scanner and get an immediate print out of all items and information you scanned. All for free.

2) Crossover appeal for Tire Dealers

I asked Peter why he thought a Tire Dealer would come to SEMA, and he had an interesting take: He suggested that the automotive aftermarket is a natural crossover for tire dealers. At SEMA you will find ideas and products that can expand your business. Wheels, cold air intakes, and all kinds of other upsell opportunities are available. While that customer’s truck is in your shop, why not sell him the accessories that he’s going to buy somewhere else?

These two points—about the focus on new products and the crossover appeal—combine for an interesting opportunity for those at SEMA. It is especially true for dealers that already may be headed in the direction of expanding business in this way or are thinking about it. If attending, maybe instead of just browsing you set a goal of finding the 5 best products that you think fit your business and your customers. Then as you come back home you can explore the possibility of whether they would work–next talk to some customers, test the waters, or even bring a few in as a test run.

3) Advice for First Timers

Peter said that first time attenders tend to think planning the trip to SEMA means arranging flights and hotels. But SEMA isn’t a fishing trip. Don’t just show up. TheScreen Shot 2015-10-19 at 1.59.32 PM best results come from making a schedule and listing your “must sees.” Set aside an hour to plan who and what you intend to see. What educational sessions you’d like to attend.  Do you want to visit your existing suppliers?  If so they’ll all be here.  Or do you want to make new contacts?  Map out where they’ll be; it’s too big to hope you run into the right booths.  For those of you that have a smartphone, you may find the “2015 SEMA Show” App to be helpful. You’ll have all the information right there on your phone. Check out their site for searchable, interactive floor plans and other helps to plan your days at the show: SEMA Show Site

4) Expanding Demographic of Who Attends SEMA

SEMA is the largest gathering of small business people in the US. That may not surprise you.

What might surprise you is that it’s also the largest gathering of professional women in the US. In the past, it was mostly just spouses that attended. Now it’s shop owners, manufacturer’s reps, and buyers.

SEMA is also working to bring young people into the industry. They are striving to make the show accessible and comfortable for them. They reach out via social media and their Youth Awards to recognize the next generation.

I appreciate Peter MacGillivray taking time from his busy preparation for the Show and giving us his perspective. And I hope some of you find it helpful whether it’s for this year or thinking about how SEMA might benefit you or others in your business in years to come.

4 Things To Know About SEMA (by Jeff Short)

What’s the deal with SEMA? Should I go? These are two common questions that I hear. I’ve gone 3 years in a row, so obviously I see value in attending. For all of you that are wondering if you should too, I thought I’d write a little guide.

SEMA is the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association. Their mission is to promote all things automotive aftermarket. They are a trade association that lobbies against laws that try to stifle vehicle modification, but SEMA is best known though for putting on the largest automotive event in the world.Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.24.19 PM

The SEMA Show takes place in early November each year and it’s held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Here are your four things to help you decide if you should attend:

(1) SEMA is only open to people that are in the automotive industry.

If you’re a tire guy or an automotive repair gal, you’re in, but the general public is locked out. This means the show is targeted to you and your needs, not the public. And, hopefully, smaller crowds.

(2) SEMA is home to the Tire Industry Association show called Global Tire Expo

The Tire Industry Association holds their big show at SEMA as well. It’s called the Global Tire Expo and it’s sort of a show within a show. You’ll Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.27.12 PMfind massive manufacturer booths with all of the new tire lines and tire changing equipment on display and all the reps that are dying to talk with you. You can get a hands on demo of every tire balancer, tool, alignment system, point of sale software system, and every other shop gadget known to man. You can make more business contacts in one day here than you’d make the rest of your life otherwise.

A note for you on touring SEMA: Your feet ARE going to hurt.

SEMA is flat out huge. You can’t see it all in one day or two. For starters just the inside part of the show covers 3.2 million square feet. Then there are all the different displays outside… Over 2,300 vendors display at SEMA. From the small mom and pops all the way up to Ford Motor Company.

(3) Opportunities to Learn about your business and industry

Besides looking at all the products and talking to the reps, you can pick from over 50 free business-building seminars. There are 9 tire dealer specific seminars on offer this year. A quick glance at the schedule for this year shows seminars with top successful Tire Dealers sharing their secrets, seminars on Truck Tires, one on Management help, and a Women of the Tire Industry Session for women only.

(4) SEMA is best known for the cars

And models. Back to the cars. You will find the finest selection of Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.25.31 PMcustom cars on the planet here. Last year’s show featured 1,500 over the top, customized cars, trucks, and bikes from all the famous builders. Speaking of those builders, SEMA is where you can meet all of the automotive royalty in one place. Last year I met the Richards… Petty (NASCAR King) and (Gas Monkey) Rawlings, Kustom Kar King George Barris, Car Crazy Barry McGuire, Chip Foose, and everybody else that has a car Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.35.07 PMshow on TV plus all the famous rock stars that are into cars that seem to be just strolling around everywhere like, ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons and my random conversation with Mike Ness from Social Distortion. (he’s into our great PA antique stores when he’s touring here) When it come to people watching, you can’t beat SEMA.

Oh yeah, and it’s in Vegas

I’m not a Vegas kind of guy but you have to see it at least once. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to stay here. Plenty of hotels from $119Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.38.46 PM a night. And you can see a show and gamble if you must. You can stay an extra day and see the Hoover Dam or tour the Grand Canyon. Then there are the restaurants. The best meal I ever ate in my life was in Vegas…

Hope this helps you think about whether it’s time for your first trip, time to check in again, or not really for you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

A Hugely Successful Tire Event: K&W Customer Case Study (by Jeff Short)

“We’re just a garage in Blue Ball trying to sell tires. We don’t have all the answers.”

That’s a quote from Barry Martin. Yes, Barry is about as humble a guy as you’ll ever meet. But don’t let him fool you. Barry and the rest of the team at Blue Ball Garage Inc. are serious promoters. Every year (20 in a row), they offer their customers a chance to save real money on a set of tires.

So, who is this Blue Ball Garage? They get their name from their Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 1.18.28 PMlocation.  Blue Ball is a pretty little town located in eastern Lancaster County of PA. The business was founded in 1952 by Barry’s grandfather Paul Martin who ran it until 1971. Barry’s father John and uncle Jay continued until 1998 when Barry and his brother Doug became partners in the business with their father after buying their Uncle Jay’s shares. Today they occupy a modern, super clean, 11,000 square foot shop, and employ 6 technicians and an office staff of 2 including Barry’s mother Marilyn and wife Pam.

Each September, BBG runs a Customer Appreciation event that lasts for 3 weeks. The first 2 weeks are advertised, and the third week is for the stragglers that just couldn’t find time to make it in. They are diligent with their promotion of the event. The marketing team at K&W Tire (including a resident graphic designer) brainstorms with the BBG crew each year and together they map out a plan. In the past, we’ve helped Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 1.20.29 PMwith a logo design, layout, printing and mailing of direct mail pieces and newspaper ads. Since last year was a special 20th anniversary event, we even helped with a massive inflatable Cooper tire to draw extra attention. Every customer that purchased a set of tires received a free T-shirt with the BBG logo on the front and Cooper’s 100th anniversary image on the back. What’s in it for their customers? Very special sale pricing, the shirt, and complimentary coffee, snacks, and soft drinks while they wait for installation. All IMG_1038customers are registered for door prizes that are given away on the last day of the sale. Happily, over the last few years the sale coincided with Cooper’s “Take the money and ride” national consumer rebate event so the savings are even greater. When it’s all done and the last tire is installed, the BBG crew relaxes with a pizza party. What does all this hard work yield?

 In just 3 weeks time, while still taking care of all the other automotive service and repairs, the crew is happy to say that they installed 368 tires!

In just 3 weeks time, while still taking care of all the other automotive service and repairs, the crew is happy to say that they installed 368 tires! The 2015 sale is just a few weeks away from starting and we’re hoping to see another record.

“Just a garage trying to sell tires” … just like most of you. Maybe this will encourage you to think about what you could do. We love working with Barry and Blue Ball Garage on this event, and we’d love to help you. We say that a lot, but we mean it. Maybe a little help from K&W is what would put you over the hump to run some kind of promotion for your customers. Let’s talk. We would love to hear from you.

Email Jeff Short: jshort@kwtire.com

Interview With Cooper Tire’s Bill Hoban (by Jeff Short)

Recently I was speaking with Bill Hoban about Cooper’s Roadmaster lineScreen Shot 2015-07-29 at 11.22.31 AM and the commercial truck tire market in general. Bill was giving me so much information that I had to ask him if he’d like to sit down for an interview so that all of our customers could hear what he has to say. Bill is Cooper’s National Truck Tire Sales Manager. He has been with Cooper for 20 years and before that, Michelin (where I first met him) for 11 years.

JS: Bill, I’ll start with the classic question. How are sales?

BH: 2015 sales are good, but we have plans for an even stronger second half. The new products that launched in last 6-8 months are proving themselves. Customers are starting to realize how good the products are and how well they are performing. And I really think that’s going to drive business from the Tier 1 and Tier 2 brands. Tier 1 being Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Continental and Tier 2 being Yokohama, Toyo, Firestone. We offer a tire with a Tier 3 price point and Tier 1 and Tier 2 performance.

JS: On the whole “tier” subject. I hear some people say Roadmasters are made in China, therefore they are the same as other Chinese tires. How do you reply when someone says that to you?

BH: I tell them yes, they are made in China, but they are made to very strict standards that our U.S. engineers require.

they are made to very strict standards that our U.S. engineers require.

Roadmasters are manufactured on new, first class equipment, under the same standards as if they were built in U.S. Every Roadmaster tire is uniformity tested and X-rayed before the tires are released. That is something that a lot of other manufacturers do not do. It takes more money and time, but it really makes a difference.

JS: Have you heard that some of your competitors just use one compound for all their truck tires?

BH: I have heard that, and I think in many cases, it’s true. It’s one of the reasons that they can come to market with such a low price point. We use 4 or 5 compounds depending on the application. These different compounds include a cut and chip resistant compound, a SmartWay compound for fuel efficiency, a line haul compound for long distance over the road applications, and a regional compound to withstand harsh twisting and turning environments. We are constantly working with compounds as technology improves and we will tweak and modify those compounds if we think it’s going to lead to a better performing product.

JS: Your tires say, “Roadmaster Engineered by Cooper” on the sidewall. What does that mean to a dealer as opposed to selling a tire with a more exotic name?

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 1.47.27 PMBH: I think the Roadmaster name is being established more & more in the market place. We have O.E. contracts with large trailer manufacturers and a fantastic loyal dealer network to back up the products. And let’s not forget the Cooper name. It does carry a lot of weight. We celebrated our 100 year anniversary last year in North America and having been in business for 100 years, many people know our brand, quality and products.

JS: The tire sidewall says “Engineered by Cooper Tire.” Explain how that works. Some people might think that the tire is designed in China.

BH: Good question. The Chinese brands we compete against are designed and engineered in China. Roadmasters are 100% designed and engineered in the U.S. for American roads. We have some very sharp engineers in Findlay Ohio, many with PHDs, that are designing the construction of the tire, the compounding, the tread design, everything is designed here and that really makes a difference. We also have higher speeds and heavier loads than most countries.

JS: Do you have test tracks or run on public highways? How do you know your tire is good on an American road?

BH: When we produce a new tire, it has to undergo thousands and in some cases millions of miles of testing with various fleets in the U.S. We use Ryder trucks that haul Cooper Tires from warehouse to warehouse. Those vehicles run 15,000 miles per month. We also use fleets down south where the temperatures are hotter. We want to represent the whole country. We have fleets in California, the Northeast, and the Southeast. We find fleets that fit our requirements, place the tires and track them to see how well they run.

JS: I saw a news article that showed a concrete pad that you were using to torture test your trailer tires.

BH: Yes. That was for our new 255/70R22.5 RM272. Many times they’re put on a spread axle flatbed application, where the front axle is scrubbed sideways. It’s a tough application. We wanted to design a new tire to perform better. The only way to replicate that application was to tear up some concrete and re-pour it to the standards that we wanted. Basically we were going after a bridge decking type surface. That’s a very abrasive surface. We ran many tests with various tires and compounds and we’re able to come up with a package that we think is going to perform very well. That is the extent that our engineers are willing to go to, to ensure that we build a tire that we are proud of and will earn the right to have the Roadmaster and Cooper names on the sidewall. (To see the news article click HERE)

JS: You have several new products, the RM234 and the RM852. Please describe them and tell us how they are performing.

BH:

Keep in mind, when we design tires, we are benchmarking against Tier 1 brands. That’s the performance level that we aim for. Other manufacturers have a Tier 1, Tier 2 and a Tier 3 lineup. They don’t want their Tier 3 tire to perform at Tier 1 or Tier 2 levels, because that would take business away from their premium lines.

Yes, they’re our new premium products that we have launched in the last year or so. The RM234 is our regional 22.5/32nds deep, all position tire, primarily designed for steer, but I also have customers placing them on trailers and they are performing very well.Keep in mind, when we design tires, we are benchmarking against Tier 1 brands. That’s the performance level that we aim for. Other manufacturers have a Tier 1, Tier 2 and a Tier 3 lineup. They don’t want their Tier 3 tire to perform at Tier 1 or Tier 2 levels, because that would take business away from their premium lines. The RM234 also has a wider tread design than the RM185, which makes a big difference. Between the new tread depth, the wider tread width and new compounding, we know we have a great tire that performs extremely well. The RM852 is a 30/32nd deep, closed shoulder drive tire. It’s also a very wide design with new compounding. On all of our fleet tests in line haul applications, the tire is performing well for over 300,000 miles. In regional applications it’s also performing extremely well, beating some Tier 1 and Tier 2 brands.

JS: Do you have any other new products coming out?

BH: Yes. We currently have the RM230WB. In some applications it’s a little too aggressive. We’ve listened to dealers concerns, so we have a new wide base tire we are launching in early Q1 of 2016 – it’s going to be more of a ribbed design which is where the market has shifted. They are currently being tested, and the results are very positive. We are also launching next month, a new 315/80R22.5 RM230WH (waste hauler), we have tested this tire extensively, in various sanitation and dump truck fleets. The tire has 24/32nds and it’s a very wide tire (requires a 280mm cap), which is what the Tier 1 brands offer. One fleet in California liked the tire so much they have started to buy nothing but the RM230WH. They are the first fleet to get our new production. They were running Bridgestone and Continental, but have decided to go exclusively with the RM230WH.

JS: How are retreaders doing with the Roadmaster line?

BH: The Roadmaster casing is very solid. We have 4 full width steel belts that protect all the grooves on the tires. To illustrate our confidence in our tires, we have an industry leading casing warranty.

This is very aggressive and shows our confidence in our products. We are in line with the Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers warranty programs.

We offer a 6 year warranty for the popular lines. If they don’t cap the first time, we have a $90 casing allowance. If they don’t cap the second time, there is a $60 casing allowance. This is very aggressive and shows our confidence in our products. We are in line with the Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers warranty programs.

JS: What are you seeing with pricing on truck tires? Are low-end tires driving pricing down in the market?

BH: We have seen that. There are many more Chinese brands entering the U.S. market. I just looked at the U.S. SmartWay website this morning. There are now 193 Chinese brands listed. 2 years ago there were only 25. We are differentiating Roadmaster from those brands with our technology and compounding.

JS: It sounds like we’ll be stocking even more tires than ever before. Roadmaster is a good size line. How does it compare to your competitors when it comes to market coverage?

BH: We now offer over 80 SKU’s in our lineup and cover all standard truck applications. We produce on/off road, SmartWay, regional, we have the 17.5 sizes, 19.5 sizes, and we’re looking at some other new sizes. Right now we’re working on a 445/50R22.5, which is the tire that replaces the duals on tractors and some straight trucks. We are going to continue to build and offer what our customers demand and need. That is what sets us apart from our competitors that have a limited SKU offering. A one stop shop is what Roadmaster has to offer.

Something else we are very proud of is Tire Review’s survey of 2000 commercial dealers last fall. They asked these dealers to rate 16 commercial tire brands. Roadmaster finished in the top 2 or 3 places in many categories. The one we were most proud of was on overall quality. Roadmaster was ranked third after Bridgestone & Michelin. We finished ahead of Goodyear, Yokohama and Continental.

That summarizes a lot of what I’ve said today. Roadmaster is establishing a name based on quality and performance and customers appreciate our value. You always have to start somewhere. Bridgestone started 40 years ago without much of a name and look where they are now. Roadmaster is still in its infancy, but we’ve got a strong tailwind behind us because we have such a great product at a great price point.

JS: Thank you for taking the time to bring us up to date.

BH: I’d like to say a special Thank You to all of your dealers for making us successful. We couldn’t do it without them.

Why You Are Better Than A Website (by Jeff Short)

Supposedly everyone wants to sell their tires “online.” Not just have a website, but a site that will allow retail customers to select a tire for their vehicle, get a price, and fork over their credit card and close the deal. All while you’re comfortably at home watching American Ninja Warrior. Sounds like a lot to ask of a website? But Mom, all the cool kids are doing it! Goodyear is on it, Tire Rack is the leader of the pack, and all the chains are going after this huge slice of the market. I wonder…

Picture this: It’s a normal business day and you’re at work. The phone rings or a customer drops by. They ask the usual, “I need a price on some tires.”

If you’re like me, the gears automatically start turning in your head. You’ve done this thousands of times. You know the drill. What kind of car do you have? Let me look up the size, load range, and speed rating, or better yet, check the door jam for that little placard. Let’s see this car. What do the old tires look like? How did they wear? Any alignment issues? Were the old tires rotated? Did you like them? How do you use this car? Are you keeping it? How many miles a year do you put on the car? If it’s an SUV or light truck, how aggressive a tread design are you looking for? Up north… do you run winter tires also? Let’s talk about your budget. Is there a rebate that will make this decision easier? And since I’m not a highly practiced retail guy, I’m surely missing some of the other questions that you ask. And of course you are intimately familiar with how your go-to lines actually perform in the real world.

So, I guess we all agree, the proper way to prescribe the right tire fitment is through all the questions that you ask the customer. Each answer the customer gives you will naturally push you towards a certain recommendation. Oops forgot, those super websites that will sell you a tire don’t ask hardly any of these questions. How do they gain a customer’s trust? Well, I guess Tire Rack does it because they are known as The Source. Plus they have thousands of customer generated reviews and a massive advertising budget to drive people to their site. And let’s not forget a highly skilled phone crew to actually make a real live recommendation. Just like you do.

Yesterday I was reading my latest issue of Tire Business. The front page story is about a company that can add a feature to your website that will allow retail customers to see your inventory (or your distributor’s inventory), get a price quote, and process their credit card. Just like that. Their tool will display all the available sizes and sort them by price. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is so much more to this business than sizes and prices. How much real business is out there that will support online tire buying? Goodyear rolled out their new system in the Chicago area first. A Modern Tire Dealer reporter interviewed 6 Chicago area Goodyear dealers to see how the new online program was working. According to the article, 4 of those questioned had not seen any sales yet. One dealer that operates 4 stores said he had installed 2 sets. Don’t forget, this is Goodyear.com with all their advertising dollars at work to pull customers onto their site. If you’re a regular tire retailer and you’re selling tires online without a phone call, I’d love to hear your story and pass it on. In the meantime, let’s listen to Mom, take a deep breath and see how this whole thing plays out.

Saying “Yes” (by Jeff Short)

Several months ago, I began an interesting conversation with Hankook’s Kevin Hyatt about the importance of retailers stocking tires. Kevin is sort of double qualified on this topic. At the time Kevin was Regional Director of the Northeast. Since then, Kevin has been promoted to Director of Corporate Accounts for Hankook. That means Kevin is in an entirely new part of the tire world. He’s responsible for handling his company’s business with outfits like Ford Motor Company, ATD, Discount Tire, and The Tire Rack among others. This change has only made Kevin more aware of the importance of supply, as I found out this morning when we continued our conversation about what can contribute to a dealer’s success.

Over the years, Kevin has noticed that the dealers who are committed to investing in inventory are the ones consistently showing real sales growth. They simply have more opportunity to say “yes” to customers that want to buy tires now.

Kevin explained that studies have shown that over 75% of consumers will buy new tires from the first person that recommends them. Of course many of our dealers already know this and are completely on top of their inventories and make sure that they are working for them. For others, it’s tempting to just throw your arms up and say, “There are too many sizes and I’ll never have the right ones in stock.” The good news is that while there are too many to have them all, good data can show you which tires have the best chance of selling regularly.

Kevin said that while Hankook offers 600 to 700 items, a realistic goal would be for a dealer to stock the tires that cover 80% of Hankook’s sales in their particular area. This isn’t 80% of 600. The 80/20 rule holds that 80% of Hankook’s sales come from only 20% of their offering. He thinks that the key to this is for dealers to partner with a distributor that stocks the line in depth and one that can share valuable data on what sells the best. I’ll give you a recent example: A dealer in Vermont says that he has room for 60 tires and he wants to stock Hankooks. We compiled data on tires sold from our Vermont sales history and added in Hankook’s statistics. We came up with the best 15 sellers that surprisingly cover 21.8% of Hankook sales in that area. 4 of each gave our customer the best 60 tire Hankook inventory possible.

If a dealer tells us what brand he’d like to sell and how many he has room for, we can crank out the best combination. This is a numbers game. We have seen a sweet spot with around 300 tires giving a lot of bang for the buck. Even then the job is not over. The dealer and the distributor will need to work together to ensure that the inventory continues to sell. Of course, we at K&W have a vested interest in seeing our dealers sell more tires as well. We are fortunate that we have access to important data that allows us to assist dealers in building an inventory that gives them the best chance for success. If you would like to discuss your inventory needs, we are here to help.

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