Getting Closer to Number One
Asked where exactly Michelin expects to gain this kind of share from, Gros explained that the company expects continued growth in the sports/sport touring segments and for the French manufacturer to recover the two-wheel off-road market losses it had been hit with in previous years. The specific means of encouraging more sales comes in the form of a new two-wheel business programme, something like the truck department’s MBA scheme is at the moment. The Michelin Business Programme was first introduced to the market in February this year and operates on two platforms – one for wholesalers and the other for retail businesses. The reason for this set-up being that point of sales training, for example, is not so relevant to wholesale operations.
The target for this year is to sign up 15 members, with the goal rising to 50 by 2010. According to programme leader Jonathan Brett, the Michelin Business Programme is “unique in the market” and is being “selectively deployed” to maximise the added value it offers. The programme is about developing “long-term partnerships,” says Brett, explaining that this begins with strengthening customer relationships and establishing new levels of dialogue. In practical terms this has meant that Michelin took its top 15 wholesalers across Europe to Qatar for a sales conference, a MotoGP experience and a post race track day earlier this year. In parallel to this, Michelin arranged for its top 40 retailers to go to Toulouse to take part in a similar programme. Following a Europe-wide development process, Michelin launched its Michelin Business Programme just before T&A went to press. The programme is centred on a computer based interactive system that stores full details of the options available to businesses. Using the system, in conjunction with regional and local business development managers, results in a computer generated action plan.
This allows both the customer and supplier to be clear about their expectations and commitment to each other; and offers a good way of reviewing achievements. The system offers resources including: Advice on suggested shop layout and point of sale (POS) enhancements, plus image and video banks for companies’ own promotional material; Business support in the form of development kits, special product days, consumer giveaways; and order profiling – some customers may know the market backwards, but other rapidly expanding or new outlets may find this helpful. According to Jonathan Brett, the latter can be exported to Excel. Some customers are reportedly already interested in full EDI, which could potentially be implemented in the next two years. In addition, Brett explains that he actually offers his time to support members with things like exhibitions, training, tracks days, openings etc. In these instances a small show kit is offered free of charge, with other promotional items such as the renowned Bibendum suit available to hire. In terms of programme take-up so far, when Tyres & Accessories first learnt of the new programme towards the end of the first quarter, one dealer and one wholesaler had already confirmed they’d come onboard. T&A understands the wholesale member is Bike Tyrestore (BTS), which is one of the leading players in this market, and Michelin representatives say more are expected soon.
However, with the motorbike tyre market being the niche that it is, it would be unlikely that more than two wholesalers will join up this year, with perhaps another one in 2009. Something Olivier Gros revealed in his interview with T&A this time last year was that Michelin were planning to launch a new Hyper-Sport tyre in the first part of 2008. T&A has learnt that this has now been postponed for the time being, with last year’s Pilot Sport 2CT recall being blamed for the slowdown. Despite this, the new tyre is still scheduled for release “mid-year” 2008, so it shouldn’t be too long now. Looking forward, an Excel-Agri style of accredited dealer status could be incorporated into the new two-wheel business programme, however, Jonathan Brett points out that developments like this are subject to customer demand.