Big Things from Mills Fleet Farm
by Alex H Stone
If you live in the midwest, chances are you’ve heard of Mills Fleet Farm. They’re a one stop shop for just about everything under the sun—appliances, hunting gear, apparel, farm supplies, automotive products, you name it. They currently have 37 stores across the midwest but that’s all about to change soon. In February of 2016, the conglomerate KKR purchased the family owned chain and they’ve got big plans for it.
Mills Fleet Farm was founded in 1955 by Stewart Mills and over time has become a staple in midwestern rural communities. Their first store opened up in Brainerd, Minnesota but today they are headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin. Initially Mills Fleet Farm was a name primarily associated with farming and blue collar communities but as they’ve expanded, they’ve begun to attract more suburban customers as well.
KKR has plans to double the number of Mills Fleet Farm stores in the next six years. In order to support this growth, they’ve recently opened a massive distribution center in Chippewa Falls, WI. This will allow them to quickly and efficiently supply all of their stores with the daunting variety of products that they stock. Countrywide has been a proud supplier to Mills Fleet Farm since 1999 and is excited to see them grow.
Countrywide’s Brand New Office
by Alex H Stone
MINNEAPOLIS, MN—Countrywide Tire & Rubber is starting off 2018 with some big changes! The first big change? A brand new office. Located in downtown Minneapolis, the new office features high-rise views and a gorgeous Art Deco feel. This move has been a long time coming and is happening along side the move into a new warehouses (see article). It’s a big transition that embodies the way in which Countrywide Tire & Rubber as a company is moving forward.
The Shift From Bias to Radial
By Eric Johnson, Vice President of Operations
Radial tires have been growing in popularity for a while now. There’s an increased demand for heavier capacity tires, the cost of manufacturing has gone down, and many retailers are beginning to stock less of the bias and lower ply tires.
The move to radial started about 5 years ago. That’s when the price difference began to level out. These days, the difference between a bias tire and a radial is only a few dollars. This is because the manufacturing process and technologies associated with radial tires have been advancing steadily to meet the market demands.
There could come a time when bias tires are actually more expensive than radials because popularity of bias tires is going down. That’s when we’ll really see a sharp drop in bias tires. The main factor is cost; bias tires are starting to become more expensive because of the lower volumes being produced. There are, however, certain circumstances where a bias tire is better than a radial tire. Industrial tires, for example, will likely always be bias. There really aren’t any advantages to doing a radial on something that small. It’s never going to need to handle high speeds or have to carry a huge weight load and traction isn’t as big of a factor.
Another reason for the shift is that the equipment being hauled on these tires is getting heavier. The technology is improving. The machinery is improving. And with that is coming more weight. A lot of these trailers can last a long time, it’s just the tires that wear out. And so customers are going to be upgrading those tires to meet those weight limits.
At the end of the day, many customers tend to prefer buying tires that exceed their load carrying requirements. Even if their hauling needs are not at the weight limit that their current tire is at, they feel more comfortable going higher than they to. They can feel confident that they won’t have problems driving down the road on these heavy loads. Pricing is also a factor. The difference in price between these plies is now minimal. For this reason, some retailers are dropping lower plies completely. They don’t want to have money tied up in stocking tires that just aren’t selling as well.
How It’s Made: Rubber Master Lawn-Guard
By Alex H Stone
The year is 2015. Fall is just about to wind down. Countrywide Tire CEO Chad Isaacs and VP of Operations Eric Johnson are at the GIE Expo in Louisville, Kentucky. It all starts with one simple statement: “We can do that better.”
After listening to feedback from lawn care customers, Countrywide Tire noted that lawn mower tires with rounded shoulders allow for turning without harming the grass as much. That’s where Countrywide’s S-Turf tire came from. But Chad and Eric think they can take it one step further… By creating lawn mower tires are soft in the center, they believe they can offer further protection for grass during turns. Thus the embryo of the Lawn-Guard tire was born. Let’s look a little bit further into this process…
As you can see, it all starts with an idea. Sometimes the idea comes from our customers; sometimes it comes from elsewhere. Once our idea is in place, we get in touch with our factories. We work with the engineers to design products that we feel are up to our standards for quality. From there, we gauge interest from our customers and begin stocking our warehouse.
For the Lawn-Guard tire, we ran tests with a local lawn company to make sure the tires performed as well as we envisioned. The results were spectacular; we were told by very experienced professionals that these tires had, in their opinion, out performed our competitors in both traction and lawn preservation—particularly in wet conditions.
Countrywide has expanded its catalog exponentially in the past year and it’s not slowing down for 2018. The Rubber Master brand is growing. Keep an eye out for Countrywide’s Lawn-Guard tire, coming this Spring!