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Tire Rack: Right location at right time in Liberty County

Tire Rack has built its business on the motto "the right tires at the right price." Fortunately, for Liberty County, Ga., the community provided the right location at the right time for the South Bend, Ind.-based provider of tires and accessories when the company was looking for a home for a southeastern U.S. distribution center (DC) in the mid-2000s.

Matt Edmonds, vice president of Tire Rack, details how the company conducted its site search for a southeastern DC when he explains, “Our primary requirement was to be able to reach the southern tip of Florida with one-day UPS ground service.

Locations in the state of Florida were immediately ruled out, because of Nexus implications. Therefore, we keyed in on potential sites in Georgia and South Carolina, but we ultimately decided the Liberty County Development Authority’s Tradeport East Business Center in Georgia offered us the most strategic location to serve our customers and was attractive in terms of the available infrastructure.”

Tire Rack opened its 242,000-square-foot DC (expandable to 500,000 total square feet) in Tradeport East in December 2005. The Georgia DC is one of six, with facilities also located in Indiana, Nevada, Delaware, Louisiana and Connecticut, encompassing over 2 million total square feet.

“We started building out our distribution network in 1991, but our company history dates back to 1979 when we opened a single point retail operation in Indianapolis, Ind.,” states Edmonds. “In 1984, we really began to focus on mail order, and we moved the business to South Bend. Today, Tire Rack is still a family-owned and operated business, which is led by our patriarch and matriarch, Pete and Wilma Veldman, Dutch immigrants and American entrepreneurs.”

Essential company functions like sales, customer service, marketing, purchasing and information technology are located at the headquarters in South Bend. In addition, the headquarters is home to Tire Rack’s largest DC, which was recently expanded to 670,000 total square feet.

Edmonds elaborates on specifically what the company does when he says, “Tire Rack carries a broad line of tires for all passenger and light truck vehicles from 17 major brands like BF Goodrich, Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Kuhmo, Michelin, Pirelli and Yokohama Tires, as well as sells aftermarket wheels and accessories. We are not a manufacturer, but rather a direct response business.”

Tire Rack has continued to adapt its targeting of potential customers over the years by initially starting out with print ads, then moving onto the web and most recently entering the world of social media. The company is also in its sixth year of television and recently launched a new campaign called “Better Place” in which humor is incorporated to appeal to a broader audience.

“While we use a variety of different mediums to get our message out to potential customers, we have found that 95% of our customers touch our website at some point in the process,” claims Edmonds. “We do receive a very high volume of telephone calls, because a significant number of our customers still prefer to speak with a sales team representative to place their orders. Our team of over 100 sales representatives has firsthand experience testing the products we sell, so they are indeed experts when it comes to making recommendations based on the customers’ needs.”

In addition to putting an emphasis on customer service, Tire Rack also values customer feedback. The company has received 2.7 billion miles of data from its consumer surveys. Customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to Tire Rack, and Edmonds explains how the company strives to achieve this when he remarks, “Our goal is to get the right products at competitive prices to our customers as soon as possible. We can reach over 85% of the United States’ population with one-day ground service. The remainder of the population receives two-day service out of our strategically placed DCs.”

Tire Rack’s DC operations are similar for all six of the company’s facilities. Truckloads of tires come in one side of the building and individual orders go out on the other side of the facility.

“Out of our Georgia DC, our employees ensure orders are being processed and shipped in an accurate and timely manner to our customers throughout the southeast,” states Edmonds. “At the Tradeport East facility, we have assembled a great team led by a DC manager, several office personnel and DC workers for shipping and receiving. We really appreciate how the Liberty County Development Authority supported us by providing us with the right location at the right time for our Georgia DC, which has allowed us to continue to provide our customers with the best service possible.”