A dark and dingy showroom is a thing of the past. Before your customer service, even before your vehicle service, the showroom offers a first impression of your business. Customers expect a neat and clean showroom, but they also need to recognize your business.
Branding your tire dealership is key to building a strong relationship with the customers in a community, especially if your business is acquiring another independent tire dealership. People remember brands that stand out, and if you are taking over another brand, you want to be recognized. You want your acquisition to be a part of your brand.
The future of many tire dealerships is expansion. Tire dealers are acquiring new locations left and right, but it doesn’t stop at the purchase. Revamping an acquired location’s showroom makes the new location part of its new brand, sometimes with big and sometimes with small changes.
Match Your Culture
When expanding your business, you may encounter different markets with very different people.
“Branding is very fragile,” says Paul Sullivan, vice president of Sullivan Tire & Auto Service. “Certainly, first and foremost, understand what’s behind the brand. With the independent dealer, more often than not, it’s a family. So you have to live that 24/7 and recognize the people.”
Recognizing the people of an independent tire dealership involves both the employees and the customers.
Like many tire dealerships, Sullivan Tire & Auto, which acquired Century Tire in Somerville, Mass., last year, keeps employees of an existing location and works with them to learn about the community they are entering.
“We certainly honor any and all commitments an existing business would have in their communities,” he notes. “So we talk with the employees of a particular business. We want them to come with us.”
Aaron Telle, president of St. Louis-based Telle Tire & Auto Service, agrees. When acquiring a new location, Telle tries to find locations with a similar culture. When he acquired Al’s Automotive & Tire in Fenton, Mo., in 2015, he did just that.
“From a culture standpoint, and from an acquisition standpoint, one of the things that we are not necessarily looking for is shops or repair facilities that are struggling to survive; not making money; or maybe don’t have the best reputation. Those aren’t the types of acquisitions we are necessarily looking at coming to, to do a revival. What we found with the last two is trying to find places with similar cultures to ours,” Telle explains.
Cater to the Demographic
While employees can be very different depending on a location, so are the customers. Catering to different demographics when rebranding your shop makes a difference to the customer.
Gary Hoyt, head of sales and marketing for tireshowrooms.com, a company that sells showroom displays, furniture, products and solutions, suggests rebranding your showroom to appeal to the demographics your shop will serve.
“A person from the Deep South or Southwest might take a different angle on the showroom than someone might in the Northeast…You have to cater to different demographics. I do think you need to change a little for whoever you are targeting,” Hoyt says.
For example, if you are in a community like Moab, Utah, where drivers are interested in off-roading, Hoyt might try using a graphic of jeeps or jacked up trucks in the showroom, whereas in a high populous area such as Manhattan, he will have to take a different approach.
“We like to use lifestyle graphics and when I say lifestyle graphics, I mean if you’re catering to a family – and these images can be had fairly inexpensively – maybe a shot of a family having a picnic, or working out of the back of an SUV, or tailgating at a game or something like that,” Hoyt says.
Hoyt adds that the family demographic, especially women, do a lot of the purchasing and are often the demographic of choice. A family oriented buyer doesn’t want to shop or bring their family to a filthy and uncomfortable environment.
“The reality is when you’re making a purchase of tires, and maybe anything else that goes with it, that’s a big purchase, that’s a big hit on a family budget. So, you really want to stand out and make it an area people want to come to,” he says.
What makes a welcoming and efficient showroom is debatable, but some branding efforts hold true to almost all dealerships.
When revamping an acquired location, a tire dealer will obviously include its colors and logos into the business. How to apply that color, however, is key.
Sullivan Tire, for example, always incorporates its Irish green color into new locations. At its new Somerville location, the dealership kept the overall pallet of the showroom neutral, while adding touches of green here and there and the Sullivan Tire logo to make people know they are in a Sullivan Tire location.
Hoyt agrees with this approach suggesting tire dealers avoid having a rainbow of colors coming into the showroom.
“We generally recommend painting the walls in a neutral color and then letting the graphics carry the look and the feel throughout the showroom,” he advises.
For Telle, rebranding Al’s Automotive & Tire to a Telle Tire also took a few aesthetic changes.
“From a facelift standpoint, we changed over the signage, painted the interior waiting room, removed the (old) logos inside the shop and put our logos up and got pictures and signage that we use inside our store,” Telle said.
Another part of Telle’s look are the big red awnings with the Telle Tire logo over its windows. Telle says, however, that the design of Al’s Automotive’s exterior is different than its other locations, and he is still working to implement that design feature into the new location.
Other changes aren’t as straight forward. Like the services and tires a dealership offers, what works for one business might not work for another.
Updating the counter space, for example, can depend upon what the demographic might prefer, how the dealer does business, and the space allotted for counter space.
Sullivan’s new Somerville location took a modular counter approach, while the Fenton Telle Tire location brought in new kiosk-style counters for an open and contemporary look.
Hoyt also recommends multiple counters or a kiosk approach for today’s showroom because they don’t allow customers to stand so close that they can hear each other’s conversations. Privacy and confidentiality are key to the kiosk approach.
A no brainer, but an important showroom sales tool many people forget about is the tire display, Hoyt adds.
“We are aware that studies have been done, and one of the most important sales tools for a tire dealer is the tire wall, which helps the person behind the counter the greatest. Free standing tire displays do the same thing,” he says.
Telle Tire’s acquired Fenton location originally wasn’t very involved in the tire business with a 90% focus on service and a 10% focus on tires, compared to Telle’s 55% service and 45% tires business model. This prompted the dealer to upgrade and add to its tire equipment.
On the other side of that coin, Hoyt also offers a solution that eliminates this feature after hearing that a lot of people hate the smell of tires. The solution? Create tire display concepts completely with graphics and video so customers can see the tire, but avoid the smell.
In the end, the showroom should simply reflect your name and your business fundamentals.
“My biggest fear when we were putting our name on Al’s Automotive was trying to get out front to the consumers right away to let them know, yes, the name is changing, but we kept all the employees, we value all the employees, and let them know who Telle Tire is and what we are about.”