Front Line: Craig Essex, Point S

At a time when the tire industry is undergoing extensive change, Point S plans to provide the tools and the expertise independent retailers need in order to succeed.

Craig Essex has seen the tire industry change dramatically since he first got into the business in the 1970s. Recently appointed Director of Development Canada for Point S, his experience and past accomplishments make him especially suitable for the challenges he sees ahead.

Vast experience
Unlike some executives who have seen the tire business exclusively from the vantage point of a leather chair and corner office, Essex began his career in the trenches, and then moved on to tackle greater challenges.

“I was studying mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo,” he says. “I got partway through and decided that I wanted to do more with my hands. So I started my mechanical apprenticeship program, got my license, and worked on cars for a number of years. That was in the late ‘70s.”

Essex then moved on to management, running a 16-bay Canadian Tire service repair location for a number of years. “I was behind the counter, and it was a true retail experience,” he recalls.

His next challenge was as a service manager for a Goodyear location, and then as a technical trainer, a zone manager, and on to marketing. “I worked on direct mail, TV, radio, newspaper ads, etc.,” he adds.

So Essex went from turning a wrench to managing a store to managing a supply chain to working with a tire manufacturer in a number of capacities, and in various parts of Canada, which makes him familiar with the nuances of each region of our country. Clearly, he has a thorough understanding of the entire Canadian tire market.

Challenges ahead
Essex is drawing on his thorough understanding of the tire industry, and his vast experience, to take on the next challenge in his professional life—to help Point S expand across Canada. “They’re very strong in Quebec and they have some traction in the Maritimes,” he explains, “but west of that, it’s a challenge.”

As Director of Development for Point S, Essex says his goal is to introduce the brand to markets where it isn’t known well. And when dealing with tire retailers who are already working with a banner, he plans to find out how Point S can better serve their needs. “Are they content just getting a better price for tires?” he asks. If not,

Essex says there’s an opportunity for him to win over the retailer to Point S. Essex explains that Point S isn’t simply about better tire prices for retailers. The company has relationships with a variety of suppliers, as well as access to training and the tools independents need in order to succeed.

“They can learn about marketing and advertising, and their staff can get technical training,” Essex adds. “There’s a lot in the package we offer.”

A changing industry
Essex believes the solutions Point S offers are the answers tire retailers need as they look ahead to an everchanging industry. “Just think about the number of SKUs available today, and think about the kind of inventory the average retailer has to carry, as well as the costs,” he says. “If they’re not aligned with someone who can lower those costs, and if you’re not aligned with someone who can help them stay current in the industry, it’s going to be tough to survive.”

In the immediate future, Point S plans to expand into Ontario, and into key locations in Western Canada, near current Point S warehouse locations. Looking ahead a few years, however, they plan to expand throughout the country. “Within five years we want to have a presence in all the provinces across Canada,” Essex says. “We’ll get there one step at a time.”

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