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Photo provided by Husqvarna

Equipment Trends 2018

For Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) magazine’s annual “Equipment Trends” focus, OPE recently asked representatives from equipment manufacturers throughout the industry to share their insights into market trends and what dealers need to know. Their responses are presented here, in the order in which they were received.

 

OPE: What trends are you seeing with regard to outdoor power equipment?

 

Photo provided by Excel Industries (Hustler)

We continue to see a focus on operator comfort. Also, clean, simple designs that make service and reliability a focus. No need to add unnecessary parts and pieces that just add cost.

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

This year, we continue to see the growth in acceptance of stand-on mowers. More and more landscapers are moving into more powerful engine options. This year, we began offering 37-hp. engines on 52-inch mowers. With the labor market being very competitive, landscape companies can justify purchasing higher-performing machines.

– Ed Wright, VP of engineering, sales and marketing, Wright Mfg.

 

Photo provided by Greenworks Commercial

The transition from gasoline-powered to rechargeable outdoor power equipment is really accelerating within the marketplace. This is due to two factors primarily: Within the consumer market, a significant amount of the SKUs offered at the national retailers are now rechargeable products. Increased product availability is helping the transition, because consumers are now aware of the benefits of no gas, less vibration, no fumes, and no noise.

Within the commercial lawn and landscape segment, lithium has now given us the ability to produce our 82v Greenworks Commercial line, which is true gas replacement product. There are now more than 500 cities across America with some form of noise bans or restrictions. These restrictions –  combined with the many properties “going green” –  is driving this transformation in the industry.

– Anthony Marchese, director of independent retail, Greenworks North America

 

Consumers have a growing interest in battery-powered equipment. As battery technology becomes more efficient and economical, more professionals will consider innovative battery-powered alternatives.

– Steve Smith, vice president, lawn and garden, Earthquake, a division of Ardisam, Inc.

 

We’ve seen a number of developments and trends emerging over the past years that will continue through 2018 and beyond. Robotics will see a much more widespread adoption in the U.S. over the next years, and we’re fully prepared for this trend with our line of consumer – and soon also commercial – robotic mowers. Connectivity is another important trend that extends from our line of commercial wheeled products all the way to robotic mowers. Starting in September, Automower Connect-equipped models will have full Amazon Alexa integration. It’s the next logical step to fully integrating our robotic mowers into the smart home IoT environment. We’re also integrating more and more connectivity technology into our commercial products. Once we launch our Fleet Services program, users will be able to fully track all of their equipment not only for geographical location and security, but also for productivity, efficiency and service metrics.

Emission regulations and fuel savings are also important trends that shape our market. We continue to push the boundaries with our battery-powered equipment, new fuel consumption technology, as well as our own line of premium oils and fuels that is best suited for all of our gas-powered products. We’ve seen a lot of success with our commercial battery products as more and more professionals recognize not only the importance of a sustainable future but also the convenience and performance these products are offering.

– Jeff Dewosky, vice president and general manager, Husqvarna

 

Pittsgrove Power Equipment, Pittsgrove, N.J. Photo provided by Masport

We traditional industry players are now competing with an influx of battery-powered machines supplied by the power tool companies. This is a real threat to the industry, as these players have expertise in batteries and have relished the opportunity to enter another industry, which has been slow to adapt to changes in technology in an already digital age. They already have well-known brands and are in every hardware chain and online market platforms. They have not needed a service industry in the past to support their products, and their entrance into our market is likely to accelerate the trend toward online sales of outdoor power equipment.

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport Ltd

 

In terms of design, a real focus centers on ergonomics. This is driven by the need of end users to have product that they can run longer and stronger without any added strain. Another important trend is toward battery and robotics. Consumer battery products are beginning to take a strong hold, and, as time moves on, we are beginning to see the same for commercial users. As battery technology advances –  allowing longer runtimes and improved, commercial-level performance – we will see battery become a larger part of the commercial business. In terms of robotics, that market is expanding and also becoming more competitive. As that market grows and matures, commercial landscapers will begin to understand the value proposition offered by robotic mowers, and the segment will grow dramatically.

– Kevin Hall, RedMax distributor sales manager

 

Photo provided by John Deere

For our customer, we continue to hear that uptime, ride quality and fuel efficiency continue to be top of mind. With those needs in mind, we are constantly looking to introduce innovative design features, technology, and service solutions that will help increase their uptime.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

There’s been an increased focus on cordless solutions, though it’s been a slower transition for professionals than it has been with consumers. Consumers have been quick to take advantage of the options available for battery-powered equipment and the benefits of not having to deal with mixing gas and oil or the general maintenance associated with gas-powered equipment. However, right now, many professionals continue to rely on their gas-powered equipment to get most of their jobs done, because cordless technology has not advanced to a point yet where battery-powered tools can tackle all their applications. Many professional landscapers are starting to recognize the benefits of cordless equipment, so they’ve started to use them as supplemental tools to their gas units. For example, when a crew is working early in the morning in a residential area or doesn’t want to bother people in a commercial setting, they’ll turn to battery-powered equipment due to the reduction in noise. Crews will also turn to battery-powered equipment when they’re working in municipalities and near hospitals that do not allow the operation of gas-powered equipment.

While the professional market is slower to adopt, those who are using battery-powered equipment are seeing the benefits right away –  no gas, ease of use, less noise, less vibration, lighter weight, less maintenance, and lower operating costs.

– Anthony Buxton, associate product manager for Milwaukee Tool

 

Photo provided by Schiller Grounds Care

Enhancing end user productivity continues to be the key to designing products for commercial cutters and landscapers. Whether it’s increasing speed, reducing maintenance, increasing versatility, improving operator comfort, or something else, getting more work out of a piece of equipment is vital.

For consumers, making products easier to own and operate seems to be a growing trend, especially with homeowners who want to use products like the pros use. That means improved ergonomics and operator interfaces, clearer operating instructions, and better customer support – particularly online – are necessary.

– Pat Cappucci, president and COO, Schiller Grounds Care

 

The features and innovations Exmark develops are a direct reflection of the feedback we receive from our customers. Our product team travels thousands of miles each year, conducting in-person meetings with customers to get a better feel for the challenges they’re facing. This customer-feedback-based approach helps us stay focused on advancements that deliver true value to our users.

As a result, at Exmark we’re focused on developing technologies that increase productivity while reducing downtime and required maintenance. This lets our customers focus more time and energy on productivity, customer satisfaction and, ultimately, making more money.

As qualified labor becomes tougher to find and retain, increasing the productivity of each worker has moved to a higher priority. Whether it’s through larger cutting decks, reduced equipment downtime, increased operator comfort, or a combination of all three, Exmark is working to maximize the productivity potential of each worker. Additionally, since our customers are constantly hiring and training new workers, it’s important our equipment is straightforward and easy to operate as well.

– Jamie Briggs, Exmark senior product manager

 

Photo provided by Honda

The professional landscape market is benefiting from increased innovation and development of equipment and tools. Landscape professionals have become increasingly more sophisticated about purchases, expanding usage for both commercial and residential lawn products. In the commercial segment, owners are focused on how to get the most value from their lawn mower model, or fleet, investment while helping to effectively complete outdoor landscaping maintenance and projects.

Customer feedback tells us consistently that our customers look for power products that help make jobs easier – models that are reliable, increase speed and efficiency, and are equipped with easy-to-perform maintenance functions that help avoid unexpected expenses and costly equipment downtime. Because these factors drive buying habits, Honda focuses on producing a power product lineup that people can count on – technologically innovative generators, lawn mowers, tillers, trimmers, pumps, and snow blowers –  that offer the least amount of downtime, low cost of ownership, greatest efficiency and durability, along with the best fuel economy possible.

– Michael Rudolph, vice president, Honda Power Equipment

 

There is a continued focus on fuel efficiency in gasoline-powered products, as well as improving overall ergonomics, including reduced vibration and power-to-weight ratios for user comfort.

One of the biggest industry trends is the influx of battery-powered products among the professional landscaping market, particularly for pros with some municipalities – and residential areas – requiring low- to no-exhaust emissions and lower noise.

– Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.

 

OPE: How have overall industry trends or technological advancements impacted your product offerings in recent years?

 

We continue to focus on giving the customer a very productive machine at a great value. In commercial applications, productivity and reliability are keys. Residential offerings also value these features, along with a great dealer experience.

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

The expansion of the stand-on market has raised the bar for this style of mower, and we continue to stay a step ahead.

– Ed Wright, VP of engineering, sales and marketing, Wright Mfg.

 

The demand for rechargeable outdoor power products has helped our company become one of the leaders within the lithium rechargeable outdoor power segment. Greenworks’ core product focus in on rechargeable products, and we have one of the largest lineups of consumer and commercial products in the industry.

– Anthony Marchese, director of independent retail, Greenworks North America

 

Photo provided by Earthquake

The growth in online sales in the consumer lawn and garden segment has been the most significant trend. It has opened the door for consumers to consider, compare and select from many more and different brands without the restrictions imposed by the typical brick-and-mortar retailer’s stocking limitations. Retailers who embrace both online sales and brick-and-mortar stores now provide customers with the best of both worlds – mass selection and personal sales service.

– Steve Smith, vice president, lawn and garden, Earthquake, a division of Ardisam, Inc.

 

Without a doubt, advancements in technology and industry trends have impacted the types of products we offer. We listen to what the customers want and create our products with the end user in mind – whether that’s a homeowner, landowner, professional landscaper or commercial landscaping company. Ergonomics plays a big role in our product development, especially for our commercial products. We recently launched our first-ever stand-on mower, the V500 series, and very specifically designed it to have an easier deck lift that is safer to use, puts less strain on the operator, and can really hold a hill. That’s just one recent example of where we took a very close look at how we can innovate to make our products better to use for a prolonged period of time.

As a full-line manufacturer – the only one that offers a full fleet solution – we design our products to cover every usage scenario professionals are looking for. For wheeled products, for example, this means designing products that have the ability to cut in varying terrains. We take the entire range of usage applications into account and offer something for every job, especially now that we have a stand-on mower and can literally fill an entire landscaping trailer.

Husqvarna continues to keep sustainability at the forefront on a global level. This is something that is very important to us as a company, and we’re constantly developing new technologies to further drive our efforts for a sustainable future – whether that’s battery products, robotics, fuel-consumption technology or fleet productivity. We announced this year that various Automower models will work with Amazon Alexa starting in September, taking smart homes to a new level.

– Jeff Dewosky, vice president and general manager, Husqvarna

 

Like everyone, the rapid market rise and consumer acceptance of battery-powered products has surprised us, with European and Australian markets in particular taking up the cordless baton. Handheld led the charge with low-priced, low-voltage products that satisfied many homeowners’ short runtime requirements. However, in a few short years, more powerful handheld and wheeled products have come onto the market so that even the most serious user can benefit from the convenience of battery without sacrificing runtime. We have met the challenge head on and believe a significant percentage of our sales in the future will be battery powered.

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport Ltd

 

Photo provided by RedMax

The most important way technology has impacted Redmax product offerings is the launch of our commercial battery line in 2018. Battery technology is beginning to parallel computers and televisions in the sense that it is improving at a very fast rate. What is new and powerful today may be considered old and outdated in six months to a year. The benefit of that fast-paced advancement in technology is that we are seeing batteries capable of runtimes and output nearly on par with their gas counterparts. Couple that with the legislative push to reduce emissions and sound at local and state levels, the opportunity for growth with battery product is here.

– Kevin Hall, RedMax distributor sales manager

 

Industry trends have driven us to develop new offerings that address our customers top concerns: uptime, productivity and fuel efficiency. To bring these offerings to the marketplace, we have developed new technology that allows us to continuously evolve our products. One of the solutions that continues to be popular with our customers is the John Deere-exclusive Mulch On Demand (MOD) technology. MOD enables the operator to switch between mulching and side discharging without ever leaving the seat. Mulch on Demand reduces the time spent cleaning up clippings from driveways and sidewalks by allowing the operator to easily close off the discharge chute.

Another product we introduced as a result of industry trends and technological advancements is the Michelin X Tweel Turf airless radial tire, available for John Deere 900 Series ZTrak and R Series QuikTrak mowers. The Michelin X Tweel Turf virtually eliminates flats and is nearly maintenance free. Additionally, it minimizes the cost and time spent on repairs and maintenance of traditional pneumatic tires.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

Photo provided by Milwaukee Tool

As advancements in battery, motor, and electronic technologies continue, you are going to see a bigger shift from gas to cordless (due to increases in power and runtime). Milwaukee’s leadership in cordless technology puts us at an advantage when it comes to continuing to stay in front of these advancements. Many outdoor power equipment manufacturers have a thorough understanding of landscaping tools, applications and users, but they’re running to catch up with the speed of cordless technology developments. Our extensive background in cordless technology provides solid groundwork, and our end-user research process allows us to understand the professional requirements for performance, durability, and ergonomics. From there, we can provide true battery-powered productivity enhancements that utilize our leading cordless M18 Fuel technology.

– Anthony Buxton, associate product manager for Milwaukee Tool

 

Making products easier to use, combined with advancements in lithium-ion battery technology, is certainly changing the handheld product market. We’ve added products to our Mantis line, and continue to look at this technology throughout our portfolio.

– Pat Cappucci, president and COO, Schiller Grounds Care

 

The industry is experiencing a trend toward continued diversification of the power supply for outdoor power equipment products. Whether it is electrification of products, further refinements in the internal combustion engine, or propulsion advancements, diversification in how outdoor power equipment products generate their power is making 2018 an exciting year in the industry.

Many tech-savvy power products users are looking at features such as robotics and remote connectivity in operating and monitoring equipment. While robotic lawnmowers have been widely accepted in Europe for many years, we are seeing growing interest in these products in the U.S. market, for both residential and commercial use. For example, Honda’s newest lawn mower, Miimo, is a robotic mower that produces a beautifully manicured lawn with minimal owner interaction. Miimo uses a microcomputer, timer and sensors to provide precise, unattended grass cutting, and is designed for users who want to be on the cutting edge of technology, have busy lifestyles, and don’t have the time for lawn care. Powered by a high-performance lithium-ion battery, the Honda Miimo is self charging and constantly monitors its battery level – returning to its docking station when it needs to recharge. And, compared with a traditional lawn mower, the Honda Miimo robotic mower cuts less grass height each time, but cuts the lawn more frequently.

The mower produces miniscule clippings that are easily dispersed into the lawn root system – breaking down quickly to act as a natural fertilizer that improves the quality of the grass.

In addition to Miimo, Honda offers a complete lineup of traditional walk-behind residential and commercial lawn mowers. Knowing that ample and reliable power are what get the toughest jobs done, Honda recently redesigned its side-discharge models to improve overall operability and working efficiency, replacing its single-stage HRS216SKA model with the HRS216VKA variable-speed mower that includes the Smart Drive system – allowing customers to mow at their own pace.

Also, many consumers are constantly on the lookout for ways to make their homes and practices more environmentally friendly. This means that fuel-efficient and zero emissions products are proving to be attractive. For example, all of Honda’s gasoline-powered mowers incorporate either the Honda GXV engine or Honda GCV engine that feature high-performance, easy starting and low fuel consumption.

At Honda, we understand that diversification and a highly reliable equipment inventory translates into long-term value for professional landscapers, helping them expand their business. Taking all of this into account, Honda works to develop and produce technologically innovative power products that our customers not only want to buy, but can depend on.

– Michael Rudolph, vice president, Honda Power Equipment

 

Photo provided by Troy-Bilt

Troy-Bilt recently launched “Ask Troy-Bilt,” the first Amazon Alexa skill from the OPE market that serves as a helpful partner in the yard. The free voice recognition skill assists in identifying optimal times to mow the lawn (based on schedules and weather forecasts). An in-aisle chatbot, “Ask Troy” has also launched on Facebook to answer consumer questions and concerns about lawn mower features, functions and benefits.

– Barb Roueche, Troy-Bilt brand manager

 

Understanding the rising trend in battery-powered equipment, Stihl engineers are exceeding expectations and spearheading new innovations in battery product technology with the continued expansion of the Stihl Lightning Battery System.

Simultaneously, battery technology has advanced where battery-powered products can be an alternative to traditional gasoline-powered products for both consumers and professional users.

Continued advancements in technology have also allowed for improving overall ergonomics, reduced anti-vibration and more fuel-efficient operation.

– Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.

 

OPE: What factors have impacted outdoor power equipment sales this year, and what is your outlook going forward?

 

Weather has been a key again this year, as it is every year. Late spring and then a spike in early summer temperatures have made this a challenging year. Outlook going forward is for continued growth and success with our brands.

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

In much of the country, we have had great spring weather and a strong economy, and these are the factors that have the biggest impact in the equipment market.

– Ed Wright, VP of engineering, sales and marketing, Wright Mfg.

 

Weather and the slow start to the 2018 season had been a factor for the dealers. However, we are seeing good recovery to the season and the weather has cooperated to extend the selling season into June. In regards to the battery market, we saw about 29-percent growth in units for the entire industry from 2016 to 2017. In this calendar year, we’ve already seen shipments increase roughly 40 percent over the same time period as last year – so the battery is really here to stay.

– Anthony Marchese, director of independent retail, Greenworks North America

 

With the long winter and late spring this year, we have seen even more online sales. Right now, pending tariffs are creating so much uncertainty in the outdoor power equipment industry. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers are wrestling with the potential impact on costs and prices. Brands like Earthquake that have diverse product portfolios – which span seasons, distribution channels and industry segments – have more ability to help dealers adapt to the ever-changing business environment.

– Steve Smith, vice president, lawn and garden, Earthquake, a division of Ardisam, Inc.

 

Photo provided by Husqvarna

Weather always impacts our business; this is true for all outdoor power equipment companies. The season is now in full swing, and we have a very positive outlook for the rest of the year, as we are continuing to drive sales for our new 2018 products.

– Jeff Dewosky, vice president and general manager, Husqvarna

 

Heading from winter almost into summer, without the traditional intervening spring weather pattern, is starting to become the norm in many parts of the country. A late start to the season puts pressure on all market participants, supplier and retailer alike. The optimist in me predicts we will catch up a lot of the lost ground as we move through summer and a longer fall season.

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport Ltd

 

In 2018, many parts of the area were impacted by a relatively late start to the growing season, which shifted business later into the year. That brings about a challenge, as it could significantly impact the length of the key selling season. With some luck, we will see those areas impacted get a bit longer a selling season to offset the late start.

– Kevin Hall, RedMax distributor sales manager

 

One of the key factors driving equipment sales is cost, as cost of operation directly impacts the success of a landscaping business. To help support our customers, we are committed to developing innovative solutions that can help our customers achieve their goals. Understanding that operating costs are a concern, we have put a focus on developing support solutions that help to minimize machine downtime. The John Deere Neverstop service and support program offers landscape contractors a comprehensive set of solutions, including a full-line of commercial-grade products, parts, dealer service and support, money-saving rewards, and special finance options.

In general, we have a positive outlook for the rest of the year. We are continuing to invest in developing new offerings that can provide solutions for our customers.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

Our expansion into outdoor power has been extremely successful. We anticipate this momentum to stay considerably strong throughout the remainder of the year, especially as we get into fall cleanup season and the launch of our M18 Fuel chain saw. We’re committed to improving productivity by providing performance-driven and trade-focused solutions so users can perform an entire day’s work on one battery system. While we can’t share details of our future product roadmap, rest assured we will continue to leverage our technologies to provide true productivity enhancements where our users need it most.

– Anthony Buxton, associate product manager for Milwaukee Tool

 

The delayed spring, particularly in the northern markets, certainly slowed things down early in the season; but the strength of the economy, including a rise in new housing starts, is a positive.

– Pat Cappucci, president and COO, Schiller Grounds Care

 

Photo provided by Exmark

Our outlook for 2018 is positive; however, the weather and economy are two factors that always have the potential to impact sales for the year. We’ve seen an example of this in the long winter, short spring and rapid transition into summer-like weather many parts of the country have experienced this year. That said, overall we’re confident 2018 will be a good year for our dealers and customers.

– Jamie Briggs, Exmark senior product manager

 

The outdoor power products business is a very seasonal one, and sales for such are driven largely by weather patterns and weather events. To illustrate, this past April was a slower sales month for Honda Power Equipment because of weather extremes and a late start to warmer temperatures in most parts of the U.S.; May 2018, on the other hand, demonstrated a remarkable level of pent up demand following a colder-than-average April. As summer continues, we anticipate healthy demand as consumers are looking to the reliability, efficiency and quiet performance of the full array of Honda outdoor power equipment and general-purpose engines to maximize recreation time, productivity and make the most of their outdoor experiences.

Overall, the outdoor power products business is healthy, driven by factors such as a booming housing market and continued economic growth nationwide. With that, sales of outdoor power products for both residential and commercial use continues to be an emphasis for Honda Power Equipment.

– Michael Rudolph, vice president, Honda Power Equipment

 

Photo provided by Stihl

Weather, of course, consistently has an effect on our industry. The OPE market, as a whole, has suffered from the long and cold winter we experienced this year. Many regions of the U.S. did not experience any spring-like conditions until very late in April, resulting in a sales shift in first quarter. With improving weather conditions, we are seeing better retail activity for OPE, and are hopeful that moisture levels remain wet enough to allow this retail activity to continue through the summer months.

Over the past year, the market share of Stihl battery-powered equipment has increased significantly, and we have introduced a number of new consumer-oriented battery-powered products to continue to meet demand.

– Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.

 

 

OPE: What trends/factors are most impacting independent servicing dealers and how they do business, and what overall advice do you have for OPE dealers?

 

Andrew McCorkindale, territory manager for Pro Power Canada, discussed Wright’s new Stander X Gen 2 mower with two visitors at Kooy Brothers Equipment, LTD’s open house in Toronto. Photo provided by Wright Mfg.

We see a mix of new dealers entering the business and some dealers closing down. The strongest dealers are the ones who have well-stocked service departments and can turn around equipment quickly. One of the biggest factors affecting dealers is finding great service technicians.

– Ed Wright, VP of engineering, sales and marketing, Wright Mfg.

 

The independent servicing dealer up to this point has been underserved when it comes to the battery segment. Much of the battery product that they are able to sell from the major gas companies is low-voltage under-powered equipment that is at the top of the price range. Dealers are still getting between 40 to 60 percent of their business from the homeowner and pro-sumer. These high-cost/low-powered products do not fit their needs. Greenworks has introduced our 40v Elite line in addition to our 82v commercial line, which now gives dealers an offering and price point that allows them to compete and beat the mass merchant.

– Anthony Marchese, director of independent retail, Greenworks North America

 

Continued growth in online shopping will drive independent dealers to up their game. They must continue to invent new ways to attract and engage customers and improve the customer experience. They have to add significant value to the purchasing process with expert product knowledge, a commitment to understanding customers’ requirements, providing practical advice based on personal experience using the equipment they sell, and ongoing after-sales communication and support.

– Steve Smith, vice president, lawn and garden, Earthquake, a division of Ardisam, Inc.

 

Husqvarna’s advice for dealers is to embrace new technologies and marketing methods, and to be sure to continue to educate themselves – along with their employees –  on new products and innovations. Dealers are not just serving as sellers of equipment anymore, but rather becoming consultants to customers on how to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Husqvarna has also developed the Dealer Business Excellence Program. Exclusive to all Husqvarna dealers, this program allows us to work closely with dealers to help them create a better, more frugal business –  as our partners. However, it has been proven to impact the entire business in a positive way.

– Jeff Dewosky, vice president and general manager, Husqvarna

 

Dealers tell us that competition from the big box stores and increasing impact from internet retail sites make it difficult for them to make money in walk-behind machinery. Many opt out of this product category, as they can’t justify the time spent on making a sale when the return is so small. We suggest they support brands and models that are not available in those outlets that have unique features sought out by discerning customers tired of buying on price and ending up disappointed with their mowing experience.

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport Ltd

 

As for trends and factors impacting independent dealers, the most notable is that the landscape remains very competitive. This isn’t just in terms of retailers and servicing dealers, but also in terms of manufacturers. There are a lot businesses jockeying for a share of the market, so dealers need to be alert and in tune with the demands of their local markets and be willing to adapt. The key for dealers is to emphasize and focus their attention on the number-one advantage they have over many of their competitors: after sales service and parts. These are the blood that sustains independent dealers, and should be at the forefront of all their promotional activities and efforts to grow their business. Another key to help grow business is to leverage social media; the ability to target promotional activities at such a huge value compared to traditional media should be a focus of every independent dealer. At the end of the day, the goal of every dealer should be to continually develop so that next year is better than this year and carry that forward. If those things happen, an independent dealer can win!

– Kevin Hall, RedMax distributor sales manager

 

Service and support continues to be a top concern for professional landscape contractors, and from a dealer perspective it is important to provide those additional offerings. Additionally, take time to understand your customers, developing a strong relationship and using your knowledge of their business to anticipate their needs. The landscape industry is extremely competitive, and landscape contractors need a trusted partner that they can depend on.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

As mentioned, the shift from gas to cordless will continue to gain momentum. We suggest that dealers focus on communicating to professionals what these cordless tools are going to deliver for them – from noise and maintenance reduction to ease of use. If any of those professionals frequently run into situations where those concerns are important, cordless might make sense for them, even as a supplement to their primary gas equipment.

– Anthony Buxton, associate product manager for Milwaukee Tool

 

I believe the biggest threat facing independent dealers is low awareness of the channel itself and the benefits dealers provide. The next generation of consumer shops online, and probably isn’t aware of their neighborhood lawn mower dealer. The big mass retailers heavily promote the sales outdoor power equipment on their websites, and Amazon is intent on growing its OPE offerings as well.

My advice to dealers is to start promoting themselves online and via social media.

Consider adding a website and/or Facebook page. No one can match the independent dealer in terms of product knowledge, application expertise and service support – but the customer needs to be told that.

– Pat Cappucci, president and COO, Schiller Grounds Care

 

Strong outdoor power equipment sales and the surging housing market bode well for independent servicing dealers (ISDs) and the growing potential customer base from which they can draw. No matter where a unit is sold, there’s opportunity to capture new, lifelong customers through premium service and support.

Particularly because customers are becoming increasingly more engaged with ecommerce, online sales and research, there are opportunities for dealers to be present and conspicuous in the cyber world. In addition to in-person sales, dealers need to cultivate an online presence to garner their share of these customers and to promote those advantages that only an ISD can provide.

– Michael Rudolph, vice president, Honda Power Equipment

 

Continued competition with the big box retailers, and the growth of online retail giants like Amazon.com, has placed an added impetus toward the need to provide first-rate customer service and further promote the distinct advantages of shopping at a servicing dealer.

Despite the increasing competition, and perceived convenience of online retailers like Amazon, we are still seeing a resurgence of buying local. Servicing dealers have continued to take back market share from the big boxes.

Our advice to dealers is to continue to improve their levels of customer service and show – not just tell – how the servicing dealer experience is crucial for outdoor power equipment purchases. Dealers provide hands-on product knowledge, operating instructions, and a level of service that simply cannot be replaced by the online-only model; and we encourage dealers to keep learning and improving their product knowledge. And customers appreciate the ability to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson.

On our end, Stihl Inc. is adapting by bringing the latest technology and products to the market, and by supporting our servicing dealers with comprehensive training and innovative marketing resources to meet demands and attract new customers.

– Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.

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