Network built on generations and relationships.
When Fred Brundle founded Fred’s Tire in 1966, little did he know his retail tire shop would grow into a thriving network of six tire wholesalers spread throughout Ontario?
“The joke back in the day was that Tire Discounter was just five guys and a pick-up truck,” says Lyssa da Costa, Director of Marketing and Brand Development, at Tire Discounter Group.
“Today, our head office in East Garafraxa, Ontario, is 156,000 square feet.”
Fred’s son, Frank, joined the operation in 1985. In 2011, Tire Discounter sold the retail side to focus on wholesale. But da Costa says, “We sell tires, but our main business is the service and relationships that we provide to the dealers.”
Many of their tire dealers have been in the business for generations. “We’re a family business and we share that with our customer base,” says da Costa.
“Tire dealers tend to be very generational. At one time, we could have been dealing with an owner who’s now retired or taken more of a back seat. Now it’s their son or daughter running the shop or taking over.”
It’s exactly what’s happened at Tire Discounter Group, now that Frank is the owner of the business. Since it’s a family-run business, they have the ability to make decisions and pivot quickly.
“Our customers are family-oriented too, so we’re well equipped to understand them,” says da Costa.
In addition to the six distribution centres, there are 75 stores which are all independent, but part of the Tire Discounter Group program.
“There are various offerings and benefits,” explains da Costa. “But they have to meet certain criteria to be part of our network.”
That includes location, signage, focus, market and sales. The program offers different perks to retail locations. “If they don’t have the staff to support advertising or social media campaigns, we’ll help with that,” says da Costa.
Tire Discounter Group will provide guidance, either doing the work for them or getting them in touch with the right vendors.
They also help with training—teaming up with manufacturers to get the training programs out to the network. In the past year, much of that has been virtual.
“We also provide opportunities for dealers to connect and speak among themselves to see what’s going on in their world, how they’re tackling certain things,” says da Costa.
There’s a mount and balance service for the dealers, which gets very busy during September, October and November, during the changeover season.
The tires are shipped direct, mounted and put on skids, then sent to dealers, so they’re available when the dealers need them.
Private brand wheels
Tire Discounter Group also acquired a private brand YKW wheel division, which is not available to other distributors.
“We just completed an e-commerce site that gives customers a visualizer of their vehicle, what it would look like with your wheels,” says da Costa.
“Dealers can use this within their site, so their customers can go online to purchase the tires they want with their wheels.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, tire businesses were considered essential, and many stayed open. Tire Discounter Group reached out to their network to offer help and answer questions, providing support at a time of need that had never been experienced.
“Our business development managers have very close relationships within the network and used tools like Microsoft Teams to stay connected and ensure we always had communication,” says da Costa.
“That ranged from how they placed an order, to sanitizing their shop.”
Frank and his mother Joyce Brundle. PHOTO Tire Discounter Group
During the pandemic, Tire Discounter Group had to change some of their systems to reduce contact, like delivering tires.
Instead of having drivers walk in and drop off tires, they set up a drop delivery like Amazon. The tires were dropped at bay doors, a picture was taken and sent to the store, to let them know the delivery had been made.
It was a confusing time, as some areas within Ontario were hot spots, with different types of restrictions from one locality to another.
“At one point, Sudbury suddenly went into complete lockdown,” says da Costa. “We have a sales team up there, and they helped handle the situation, supporting those dealers while maintaining safety for everyone.”
Even with pandemic challenges, the group came up with promotions, campaigns and creative ideas for the dealers.
Last summer, when kayaks were impossible to find, they were able to source 15 brand new kayaks and did a giveaway.
“We did a social media campaign, and all the winners could pick up their new kayaks at one of our dealer network locations,” says da Costa. “It was so much fun. One of the manufacturers jumped on board to support it.”