Belle Tire is planning to open at least 17 stores this year with a majority of its growth concentrated in the Indianapolis, Indiana area.
In an interview with Tire Review, Belle Tire President Don Barnes III said the company has already opened a store in Greenwood, Indiana this year and plans to open in other areas in the Indianapolis market, including Cumberland, Carmel, Columbus, Plainfield and other parts outside Whitestown, Indiana. The tire dealership is also planning for stores in Northern Michigan, specifically one in Petoskey, which Barnes said it hopes to open in late summer. It plans to fill out its northwest Indiana expansion and fill out the Michiana area with stores in Merrillville and Valparaiso in the fall.
“We think that area is underserved,” Barnes said about how the company chose the areas in which it is expanding. “We really don’t see a premium tire and auto car care business in these areas, and we feel we can offer those services as well as product breadth and depth without customers having to rely on going to their car dealer. We think the people down there are phenomenal. We’re excited to be in markets where the work ethic, values and culture align with our company.”
Over the next five years, Barnes said the company’s growth will be contiguous, creating a connection in the areas it serves.
“We’re in Indianapolis in south Indy, and we’re also looking at property in Evansville,” he said. “When you look at major markets contiguous to where we are—in Indy and Detroit—we’re looking at Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus… We’re looking at all major markets that are close to where we currently have a presence and where we feel the markets are underserved.”
When asked about industry consolidation in the last year, Barnes called it “evolutionary,” especially since the tire industry is heavily regionalized, and recognized that forming partnerships is a possibility if it makes sense for Belle Tire.
“There’s an exorbitant amount of capital in this industry and you have to form synergies in order to grow,” Barnes said. “For us, its part of the game now. ”
Barnes said acquisition, while used sparingly by the company, is definitely part of its growth strategy, adding that Belle Tire provides a “white knight scenario” for independents.
“We have a great reputation,” he said. “We’re privately held. We run the company from a bottom-up management style and we’re growing well. We’re growing at a pace that’s sustainable. We always have to entertain and look at all our opportunities…but any type of acquisition would have to be strategic and the right one for us.”
When asked about Belle Tire’s competition, Barnes said the company plans to focus on itself and getting better each day.
“Our focus is really about how can we as Belle Tire can be better than we were yesterday,” he said. “If we know we’ll be better, stronger and leaner when we face competitors, we’ll win. That provides a better experience for our external customer, and if we do that well, we’ll continue to grow and continue to be a prominent dealer in the country.”