By BRUCE DAVIS, SPECIAL PROJECTS REPORTER  PHOENIX (March 14, 2017) — With Job 1 accomplished — converting the majority of 200-plus Tire Factory dealers to the Point S retail store brand — the management of the retail cooperative has turned its attention to expanding the brand eastward. “It’s great seeing the strength of the Point S brand come to life,” Point S U.S.A. Chairman Eric Gill told those assembled in late February in Phoenix at the group’s annual meeting. “We’re experiencing a renewed excitement in our membership and with our customers,” he said. Mr. Gill was one of the first Tire Factory members to adopt the Point S persona and has converted 13 of his dealership’s 15 stores in the Portland, Ore., area to the distinctive blue, green and white Point S colors and signage. In his remarks to dealers, Point S U.S.A. CEO Walter Lybeck noted the Point S brand is “contemporary and relevant” and providing a better customer experience for the group’s members. At last count, there are 206 Point S locations operating in the U.S., including 153 that have converted in the past year or are in the process of converting, according to Clint Young, director of sales and business development. That means more than 85 percent of Tire Factory dealers in the western U.S. have adopted the Point S retail store brand in the past 18 months. Collectively, the group’s members generated more than $300 million in sales of tires and ancillary products through the Point S wholesale network. Among the new locations are two dealers in Oklahoma — David’s Discount Tire & Auto Repair in Haskell and Direct Discount Tire in Stillwater — who represent the first Point S points of sale in the Sooner State. On a map shown at the meeting, Point S indicated it is targeting dealers throughout the American Heartland — from the Dakotas down through Texas and Louisiana — initially, with coast-to-coast coverage possible down the road. Mr. Lybeck said in a conversation with Tire Business the Point S recruitment team has approached a few dealer groups in the 40-store-and-up category about aligning with Point S. He declined to be more specific about the timing of such negotiations. The group is evaluating its current distribution network — warehouses in Portland, Denver and Salt Lake City, Utah — to enhance delivery effectiveness and is scouting locations for additional wholesale distribution capacity to support growth as it happens. Regarding the members’ adoption of Point S as their retail identity, Messrs. Lybeck and Young noted that most of those who converted or are in the process of converting not only have taken advantage of the $25,000 in incentives funding offered to support the conversion, but also have invested thousands more to spruce up their stores and make other upgrades. As a result, they noted, most dealers have reported their fresh looks helped generate additional traffic and sales. Among initiatives announced at the Phoenix meeting are: Improvements to the Traction point-of-sale program, including the addition of a dashboard with sales data and benchmarking and goal-setting tools; The option to sell tires online through the updated Point S website. Each dealer has the option to sell online and to customize the online offers — both tires and auto service — to his or her location. Once the customer places an order, the Point S system will check inventories and ship the tires, if necessary, to the location. Addition of the Pantera brand. Point S dealers will be able to offer a range of Pantera-brand tires — including touring, sport, SUV, CUV and “Supertrac” light truck lines — through a deal with the brand’s owner, Tire Alliance Groupe. The brand, which is produced by Qingdao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd., is backed by limited treadwear warranties of 45,000 miles for the sport, touring CUV and Supertrac M/T and A/T lines and 60,000 miles on the all-season touring. The group also added the Winterstar line of winter tires this past year in time for the 2016-17 winter season. All told, Point S stocks 372 different sizes in its distribution centers in several brands. This year Point S has negotiated more rebates from its tire supplier partners, including Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Goodyear, Hankook Tire America Corp., Nokian Tyres North America, Sumitomo Rubber North America/Falken Tire and Yokohama Tire Corp. The group has produced and is running in selected markets two television commercials that urge consumers to “get to the point—Point S” while emphasizing the neighborly character of the local Point S dealer. Longer term, Point S is targeting growth in the U.S. and Canada that would drive the brand to 900-plus retail locations by 2020. The group’s 2018 dealer meeting will be in Hollywood, Calif. Link