The sprayer and spreader market held strong last year with homeowners and commercial users alike looking for versatile products manufactured for high durability. Electric-powered, high-capacity units are coming to the market forefront.
Many sprayer and spreader manufacturers reported strong sales numbers in 2010 and are expecting the same for 2011.
“2011 is looking to be an excellent year for us, with expectations of 25-30% sales growth,” says Bruce Carmichael, national sales manager for TurfEx. “We have seen the confidence of the distributors, dealers and end-users all coming back up. While working a number of international and domestic shows, including the golf show, we are pleased with the feedback and enthusiasm generated at these events.”
At Earthway Products Inc., they reported over-forecast sales for 2010 and are expecting a record year for 2011 as well, with sales in their winter-use models up significantly.
Improved Technology Meets Enhanced Durability
One of the things both commercial and consumer customers are looking for in sprayers and spreaders is new technology that improves the ease in performing a job and the overall quality of the finished product.
“More and more users are seeking products that fit existing equipment,” says Carmichael. “Most of the TurfEx sprayers and spreaders are designed to adapt to the users’ existing products. An example is the TurfEx 2.0 cubic-foot electric spreader. This model is designed to easily attach to most models of zero-turn mowers. It allows the end-user to maximize a piece of equipment already in their fleet, and it’s much more efficient and effective than using a standard walk-behind spreader.”
Operators are looking for products that are flexible, low-maintenance and high-performance. Optimal performance from a spreader means casting materials evenly over a large area.
“We engineer our spreaders with specific gearbox ratios based on the particular wheel size. Both are very important points in having a spreader with an even spread pattern. A number of spreader manufacturers don’t consider the wheel size-to-gearbox ratios when they offer a spreader,” explains Jeff Kendall, vice president of sales and marketing for Earthway Products Inc. “If the wheel is large and the gearbox is small, the impeller that spins the disk that spreads material will turn slowly and will offer poor results from a narrow spread width to a skewed spread to the left or right.”
The improved construction of these products means they are durable and long-lasting on top of versatile, something customers are looking for in all of their products.
“Materials are only part of what increases durability. Engineering durability into the product at the start is the best way to make a product durable,” explains Kendall. “No one wants a spreader or sprayer that weighs so much that it’s a handful to operate. It would be durable, but not very useful.”
Materials like mild steel with epoxy powder coat chassis, which are used by Earthway, offer a long life at a good price.
The Homeowner Market’s Desires
Homeowners that utilize sprayers and spreaders are looking for versatile products that offer professional-grade features but are still affordable and easy to use.
“Flexibility in terms of what the spreader can spread and what equipment they can work with goes a long way in the mind of the end-user,” says Carmichael. “The TurfEx TS200 has a 150-pound capacity and the TS300EG has a 3 cubic-foot capacity. Both are popular because they fit a wide variety of machines. The TS200 can attach to nearly any brand of zero-turn mower, whereas the TS300EG offers a standard 2-inch receiver hitch mount.”
TurfEx has recently implemented technology that allows certain spreaders to spread seed, fertilizer or bulk product. Going beyond the materials a sprayer and spreader can handle, the homeowner just wants to know they can handle operating the equipment. They want to see professional-grade features they can use with the knowledge of a novice.
“Homeowners want products that are easy to set up and operate and yield the desired result—green grass,” says Kendall. “We have seen an increase in sales of our mid-range and upper-end homeowner models with pneumatic wheels, larger frames and capacity. Price is an important consideration, but value, something that will last more than a year, is the real target.”
The Needs of the Professional User
Much like the homeowner market, professional users are looking for low-maintenance products that are easy to use. Accuracy is vital, as they need to promise customers the same desired finish product the first time around.
“The professional users need durability and accuracy. The pros don’t have the time to have a product down or to have to repeat an application,” says Kendall. “Each is key to maintaining a profitable operation.”
Larger Earthway models have seen an increase in sales across the board to commercial users. Their largest spreader model is a 250-pound, 12-volt all-electrical remotely operated unit that fits in the bed of a UTV. They report that tow-behind models are declining in the professional market while the 12-volt unit sales are increasing.
Their sprayer side has seen increased interest in ground-driven technology that is simple to use and very accurate. “The application is based on preset parameters and is based on ‘you push, it sprays’, ‘you stop, it stops spraying’,” Kendall explains. “On the pro side, requests are increasing for the S25 model with a stainless chassis.”
TurfEx has also seen the popularity of their electric products growing. The units are calibrated for seed, fertilizer and bulk product. Capacity continues to be an important deciding factor for the professional market.
“More and more professionals are looking for all-poly hoppers and electric-powered equipment with no hydraulics or gas engines,” says Carmichael. “In terms of capacity, one of our most popular models is the MS2000. It holds up to 11 cubic-feet of material, or about 900 pounds of product. Its popularity has a lot to do with its flexibility since it can spread such a diverse range of materials.”
Spreading the Word About Sprayers and Spreaders
Manufacturers are focusing on helping dealers to promote sprayers and spreaders in their marketing and encourage sales by backing products with impressive warranties. Manufacturers are also providing dealers and end-users with online and print tools for a better understanding of equipment operation and improving the sprayer/spreader customer experience.
“We are always working hard to provide our dealers with the best marketing materials,” says Carmichael. “Every year we publish new, glossy full-line catalogs that match the different markets we cater to. We also offer dealer kits with a wide variety of promotional materials, from window stickers and posters, to counter displays and brochures. We support our dealers with aggressive advertising, public relations and online efforts.”
Earthway conducts dealer training and equipment demos at many tradeshows. They offer several marketing and training tools from catalogs, fliers and layouts, to maintenance and assembly videos available on their website.
But for dealers, one of the best ways to market a product is to have it present on the show floor. Customers then have the opportunity to handle the equipment and witness its quality construction.
“No matter how good marketing materials are, nothing beats a dealer talking about and showing this equipment to a potential buyer,” says Carmichael. “That’s why it’s so important that dealers stock this equipment.”