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2018 Dealer Year in Review

Throughout the year, Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) magazine keeps the pulse of the industry with regular feedback from outdoor power equipment dealers.

The annual Mid-year Progress Report and State of the Industry Report are just two of those efforts to keep tabs on the industry. As the year winds down, our annual Dealer Year in Review provides a look at how dealers have fared during the past year, and seeks their outlook for the year to come.

This is the fourth consecutive year that OPE has conducted the Year in Review, and this year’s respondents hailed from 16 different states. Judging by those who responded, 2018 was a mixed bag, with a fairly even balance among those who indicated that sales were down this year and those who indicated that sales were up. Several respondents indicated that the year started slow then improved. One dealer stated that 2018 was his best year in 34 years, so hopefully other dealers outside respondent base experienced business closer to that end of the spectrum.

In addition to looking back at 2018, respondents shared what they learned this year, how they will apply those lessons to their approach moving forward, and their overall outlook for 2019.

The direct feedback of our respondents is presented below, and we hope that their insight helps you with your own 2018 retrospective and your outlook for 2019.

 

OPE: How has your dealership fared in 2018, and why?

 

Very well. Lots of rain equals lots of grass.

Jeff Hoffman, owner, Hoffman Outdoor Power Equipment, Etna Green, Ind.

 

Down a little <dash> mostly weather related.

Rob Leiser, owner, Leiser Rental & Sales, Easton, Pa.

 

Not well. Sales down 10 percent, and repair also down. Very late spring, very wet , then very dry. Weather seems to have settled (second week of September).

Steve Phillips, president, Phillips Bros. Rentals. Inc., Muscatine, Iowa.

 

Parts and mower sales have decreased from 2017. This trend is continuing due to competition and heavy discounting from the big box stores that carry the same brand. Parts sales are being affected as more and more people are willing to order parts online, and it does not help when the manufacturer is also making parts available online.

Kenneth Mlcak, owner, Fairbanks Tractor & Equipment Company, Houston, Texas

 

Overall business up another 10 to 15 percent from prior year. Diminished competition would be a primary reason, as well as a decent economy.

– Steve Walz, owner, Asanate LLC, dba/Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment, Harvard, Mass.

 

Down about $1/2 million. Cool, dry March and April.

– Carl, president, Maximum Outdoor, Wichita, Kan.

 

We are doing well, because we are becoming professional.

– Jose Tommasi, product manager, Raisman, Doral, Fla.

 

Down somewhat because of weird weather.

– Richard Roper, owner, Ace Equipment Sales, Tyler, Texas

 

About the same as last year. We have had steady sales the last few years, but with lower sales in the riding mower segment.

– Michael Jones, owner, Knoxland Equipment, Warner, N.H.

 

Sales increased 9 percent. Good weather and folks feel good about the U.S. economy.

– Mark Guss, owner, Bethel Power Equipment, Bethel, Conn.

 

Fine, good weather, good economy.

– Mike, sales, Al-Joe’s, Hamilton, Ohio

 

Tracking 5 percent up.

– Josh Levien, general manager, Carl’s Mower & Saw, Ferndale, Wash.

 

We are flat YOY, but our margins have maintained fine. We have a large returning customer base, which helps us keep stable.

– Blair Coates, president, Coates Power Equipment, Rexburg, Idaho

 

So far, so good. We had a lot of rain, so the shop has been busy. Sales, not so good. It’s getting harder and harder to cope with the box stores and internet.

– Charlie Saul, owner, Saul’s Lawnmower (since 1947), Woodstown, N.J.

 

Spring was a very late start in our area. This impacted our YTD numbers significantly. On the other hand, summer had decent moisture and we were able to recoup fairly well. Overall, we are on track to meet or possibly exceed previous years, but we had to work for it.

– Tony, general manager, ARCO Lawn, St. Louis Mo.

 

Best in 34 years!!!

– Tom Mundy, president, Tom’s Lawn & Garden and appliances, Jasper, Ind.

 

Pretty good, started off slow, but picked up later in the year.

– Nick Butitta, manager, K&D, Baton Rouge, La.

 

Fair.

– Jim Christy, owner/operator, J Central Ohio Mower Repair, Lancaster, Ohio

 

We have seen a steady up growth this year as was the case last year. Commercial sales (municipalities, government) have been strong for new equipment sales.

– Mark Bailey, president, Buck’s Saw Service Inc., Novato, Calif.

 

 

OPE: What are your biggest takeaways from 2018, and how might you apply the lessons learned from them in 2019?

 

2018 looks like it will be another record-setting year for us. We can’t base next year on this year’s business. We have had a decade of perfect grass-growing weather. It won’t always be that way. While we must always be optimistic, caution and tight inventory control is a must.

Jeff Hoffman, owner, Hoffman Outdoor Power Equipment, Etna Green, Ind.

 

Another local OPE closed. More OPE sales are going to the big boxes.

Rob Leiser, owner, Leiser Rental & Sales, Easton, Pa.

 

Watch inventory more closely, don’t over-buy on preseason orders to get to the next level.

Steve Phillips, president, Phillips Bros. Rentals. Inc., Muscatine, Iowa.

 

I may decide to stock fewer mowers and devote more time to the service department, as service only has limited local competition.

Kenneth Mlcak, owner, Fairbanks Tractor & Equipment Company, Houston, Texas

 

Margins and service-related issues are a constant. Looking to improve both over the next year.

– Steve Walz, owner, Asanate LLC, dba/Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment, Harvard, Mass.

 

Mother nature is still in control.

– Carl, president, Maximum Outdoor, Wichita, Kan.

 

Be even more competitive.

– Jose Tommasi, product manager, Raisman, Doral, Fla.

 

Internet sales, foreign goods, box stores try to compete.

– Richard Roper, owner, Ace Equipment Sales, Tyler, Texas

 

Zero turns are definitely taking over the riding mower segment in our area.

– Michael Jones, owner, Knoxland Equipment, Warner, N.H.

 

High customer satisfaction with our repair service is key to overall growth. We took on Ventrac tractors and hit a home run, great machine.

– Mark Guss, owner, Bethel Power Equipment, Bethel, Conn.

 

Take care of the customer, and you’ll be fine.

– Mike, sales, Al-Joe’s, Hamilton, Ohio

 

Employee training and empowerment.

– Josh Levien, general manager, Carl’s Mower & Saw, Ferndale, Wash.

 

We feel there are some spots in our product offering we need to fill.

– Blair Coates, president, Coates Power Equipment, Rexburg, Idaho

 

Keep your head down. The box stores and internet are not going away. Just try and maintain a good repair shop.

– Charlie Saul, owner, Saul’s Lawnmower (since 1947), Woodstown, N.J.

 

We diversified some products and got more targeted with our marketing of select products during peak selling times. This, “less generalized” marketing push allowed for higher penetration of the market in key sectors.

– Tony, general manager, ARCO Lawn, St. Louis Mo.

 

Probably would be better inventory management. As the year started slow, we had to shift our ordering policies.

– Nick Butitta, manager, K&D, Baton Rouge, La.

 

More shop repair.

– Jim Christy, owner/operator, J Central Ohio Mower Repair, Lancaster, Ohio

 

Having the economy stay strong and hoping internet sales stay out of our business will keep our type of sales strong.

– Mark Bailey, president, Buck’s Saw Service Inc., Novato, Calif.

 

 

 

OPE: How optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2019, and why?

 

I am fairly optimistic. A tough economy may be ahead, but we usually do well in times of recession as our customer base tends to “nest.” However, with such unpredictable weather, you never know. I’ll take a poor economy with lots of rain over a great economy with no rain.

Jeff Hoffman, owner, Hoffman Outdoor Power Equipment, Etna Green, Ind.

 

No! Finding young people who are willing to work in our industry is destroying our brand of customer service.

Rob Leiser, owner, Leiser Rental & Sales, Easton, Pa.

 

I think the new philosophy of [some manufacturers] will continue to erode the sales of small one-location dealers like us.

Steve Phillips, president, Phillips Bros. Rentals. Inc., Muscatine, Iowa.

 

I am not optimistic as I don’t have that many years left in the business and do not want to take the risk by adding additional product lines to try and shore up the business.

Kenneth Mlcak, owner, Fairbanks Tractor & Equipment Company, Houston, Texas

 

Mildly optimistic, with an almost constant and static set of concerns.

– Steve Walz, owner, Asanate LLC, dba/Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment, Harvard, Mass.

 

It has to be a better year.

– Carl, president, Maximum Outdoor, Wichita, Kan.

 

I am optimistic for 2019, because we are working on improvement processes.

– Jose Tommasi, product manager, Raisman, Doral, Fla.

 

Determined by weather. Hope hot and wet.

– Richard Roper, owner, Ace Equipment Sales, Tyler, Texas

 

I think 2019 OPE sales will remain steady, but maybe some growth in the parts and service areas.

– Michael Jones, owner, Knoxland Equipment, Warner, N.H.

 

Economy is going strong and the president is leading Washington with pro-business policies. If we were in any other state but Connecticut, business would be five times as strong. Connecticut politicians are the most anti-business group ever elected.

– Mark Guss, owner, Bethel Power Equipment, Bethel, Conn.

 

Medium high.

– Mike, sales, Al-Joe’s, Hamilton, Ohio

 

I see continued success, hoping for a return to our normal 10- to 15-percent growth rate.

– Josh Levien, general manager, Carl’s Mower & Saw, Ferndale, Wash.

 

It’s easy to be nervous, but we are hopeful.

– Blair Coates, president, Coates Power Equipment, Rexburg, Idaho

 

As long as the weather works with us, we’ll be okay. I don’t see sales increasing at all, or ever again. You will still have some buyers from small business, but most people have been programmed to buy online or at a box store. So what can you do, but sit back and try to do the best repairs you can?

– Charlie Saul, owner, Saul’s Lawnmower (since 1947), Woodstown, N.J.

 

We are very excited about 2019. Each year we learn more about the changes in the customers and the industry at large. As we grow and adapt to these, the company is expanding.

– Tony, general manager, ARCO Lawn, St. Louis Mo.

 

Very. People are getting tired of getting the runaround at Home Depot.

– Tom Mundy, president, Tom’s Lawn & Garden and appliances, Jasper, Ind.

 

I’m optimistic. I think it should be better than this year. We picked up a few new lines and reduced some slower-moving ones.

– Nick Butitta, manager, K&D, Baton Rouge, La.

 

Good. Since 1996.

– Jim Christy, owner/operator, J Central Ohio Mower Repair, Lancaster, Ohio

 

I don’t see any big bumps other than finding new employment for mechanics.

– Mark Bailey, president, Buck’s Saw Service Inc., Novato, Calif.

 

 

OPE magazine would like to thank all those who took the time out of their busy schedules to contribute to our Year in Review. If you were not able to respond to our Year in Review, but would like to contribute your feedback to our annual Mid-Year Progress Report, State of the Industry, Year in Review or other similar efforts, please feel free to contact John Kmitta, associate publisher/editor at jkmitta@epgmediallc.com.

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