In a year of up and downs, Point S USA achieved record sales, profits and store growth with the addition of 27 stores to its ever-expanding footprint in 2020. While the co-op experienced challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, its leaders say a laser focus on its members was the key to growth last year.
“What we decided was to take our focus away from the co-op and to look at the member,” said Walter Lybeck, CEO of Point S USA. “We thought if the member succeeds, we all succeed.”
“We had those tough conversations about staffing,” adds Clint Young, the co-op’s COO, about decisions the organization had to make at the onset of the pandemic. “But in the end, we were in a better position because we were staffed to grow.”
And grow it did. The co-op expanded into five new states—Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Mississippi —to bring its total to 245 locations across 27 states. In addition, the co-op acquired Northwest Tire Wholesale, a distribution warehouse in Portland, and added new staff members to support its new members.
Adding to that, the co-op ramped up its promotions in the second half of 2020, utilizing members’ new digital display TVs—or digital posters—given to them at last year’s conference. The combination of marketing spend, new store growth and current store growth created a recipe of success that Point S says will fuel the co-op’s growth into 2021.
“When others were shrinking their marketing spend…we decided to press on the gas and execute our largest promotional year ever,” Lybeck said. “It paid off hugely for all of us, and many of our members had record years this year.”
The Point S team updated its co-op members on its successes in 2020 and what’s to come in 2021 during its first-ever virtual owners meeting, hosted in late February. During the event, Point S management shared video updates on each aspect of the business, and Point S owners were able to access financials, vote for board of directors’ candidates and view a virtual vendor show, which highlighted the co-op’s Preferred Tire Partnerships.
New Preferred Partners
Seen at this year’s event, the co-op added new names to its preferred vendor list. Those include Falken, Kumho and Nexen Tire. Its other preferred vendors are Nokian Tyres, Toyo, Hankook and Goodyear.
Lybeck said while each brand will give dealers opportunities to grow, it will also give them more options of tires to sell, especially in a tough trade and tariff landscape.
“We want to sell every tire we can get our hands on,” Lybeck said. “As we look to 2021, we need to be prepared for a whole new set of challenges. Our tire partners are going to be facing very poor fill rates around the world. Their supply chain is in real trouble. And new tariffs and duties are not helping the supply chain. Having access to multiple brands is important.”
The co-op plans to rally around their preferred partners this year by having a “Spring for All” sales event, where it will offer a rebate on these products, said Devin Barr, marketing director for Point S USA/MBT Tire Marketing. The group is also looking at doing promotions with its service vendors.
Roll-Out of Digital Services
As a technology-first organization, Point S is also continuing to roll out its All-Trac Platform, a proprietary shop management and customer communication tool. The platform, optional for Point S member locations, allows for online appointment scheduling, text communication with customers, easy-to-view digital inspections, repair order displays for service advisors and technicians and has the ability to garner customer reviews through text.
Young said last year the platform went through beta testing and began to be rolled out in customers’ stores in the last half of 2020. With 45 stores on the platform, Young anticipates more will be added this year. The team has hired Regina Lee as its new All-Trac implementation manager to train store staff on the platform in-person.
In a video on the conference’s website, Lee said training will include micro-learning segments, personalized to a shop’s needs, and the system will integrate short quizzes for dealers to keep up to date as upgrades occur.
In addition, Point S is in the beginning stages of rolling out its B2B platform for customers. Currently working in two of its warehouses, the platform will integrate with All-Trac and the co-op’s Traction POS system and show real-time visibility of tire inventory. Young said shops will be able to see tires in stock not only at their stores, but also at the nearest distribution warehouse as well as at other stores in the Point S network.
“It’s is designed to extend individual stores’ wholesale operations into their markets,” said Young, adding that the B2B site will be available to Point S dealers later this year.
Another digital tool that will arrive in Point S dealer stores in 2021 is the group’s Accountability Dashboard, which shows the group’s overall marketing spend in different channels and how its impacting member sales.
“We want to be efficient with every dollar we spend and provide clarity to where our money is going,” Barr said, noting that member stores have found success with paid search and connected TV advertisements. “This will give the owner visibility into how our marketing is impacting sales in each store.”
Since joining the international Point S family five years ago, the co-op has added 95 new store members into the 38-year-old group.
While the organization has enjoyed growth in the mid-South over the past two years, Point S Member and Chairman Eric Gill acquired 10 former Vianor Tire Centers in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York last September, extending the Point S footprint to the northeast.
Young said Point S’s new member recruitment and growth will continue to focus on areas around its four distribution centers in Portland, Salt Lake City, Memphis and Denver with a keen eye on opportunities in the Mid-South, including in Missouri and Alabama.
While a focus in 2021 will be the execution and implementation of the organization’s new digital tools, Lybeck said the co-op will also work to create growth in other areas of the country.
“We can’t take our eye of any section of the country right now,” Lybeck said.