Dealers Continue Rolling with the Punches

Winter went out with a bang up here in Wisconsin. Our beloved Packers claimed their first Super Bowl trophy in 14 years, we experienced our worst blizzard in about 40 years, and fervent government workers put the badger state in the national headlines with their around-the-clock protests.

A Wisconsin-based manufacturer, Ariens Company, has also been in the headlines quite a bit. They’ve sold a ton of snowthrowers this year, but have also had to deal with a couple of recalls. Another Wisconsin-based manufacturer, Briggs & Stratton, had to recall a V-twin engine that was used on a handful of riding lawn mowers. Moving outside of my home state, Stihl, Honda and Husqvarna (Poulan Pro) have also had product recalled this winter.

Events such as these remind me how important dealers are to the Green Industry—and how much they have to remain on their toes. You just never know when or where the next natural disaster or Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recall is going to hit. But when it does, you can rest assured that the independent servicing dealer is going to be on the front lines helping resolve the situation.

You also never know when one of your competitive advantages as a dealer, such as selling “high-end” and/or “commercial-grade” equipment could be lost; is selling “commercial mowers” this year. Similarly, you never know when a supplier is going to announce a significant distribution change, such as putting a few models of a supposed “dealer brand” in a major mass retailer.

In the most extreme event, you just never know when a supplier may be forced to shutter its doors. At the same time, you never know when a supplier that’s been on the ropes could be poised to make a potential comeback. A notable lawn mower manufacturer, for all intents and purposes, has been “out of business” for the past couple of years. However, at the time this issue went to print, there was strong reason to believe that this brand could be on the verge of making an encore performance. (Be sure to visit the newswire and blog at for daily updates.)

What we’ve learned from recent memory is that your suppliers are going to do what they feel is necessary to put their best foot forward. That might mean retailing equipment through a big box, forming an alliance with another powerhouse OEM’s dealer network, or maybe selling out to another company. Whatever the case, dealers are left to deal with the consequences, which are more favorable in some instances than in others.

Dealers will indeed deal with them—just as they have done for the past 10 or 15 years. Rolling with the punches is how dealers have always put their best foot forward. I’m pleased to see that NAEDA’s outdoor power equipment dealer council has formed a task force to more proactively address dealer issues with OEMs. This is a great development and positive step in the right direction. However, much like the mobs of government workers who camped out at the Wisconsin State Capitol in late February, strength is in numbers, and the Green Industry still needs more dealers to take an active role.