The addition of hardscaping products and waterscaping materials to your product offering makes you more of a one-stop shop to your landscape customers. Since landscapers are very hands-on people, most have a relatively easy time picking up the necessary skills to branch into lighting, waterscaping and even basic hardscaping. In most cases, it takes just one day of training dedicated to learning about the application of materials and a second day for educating on how to sell the service.
According to Steve Jones, president of Pave Tech (pavetech.com), the dealer network is critical when it comes to educating the contractor. “The contractor expects their vendors to be experts,” Jones adds. “So if you’re thinking about becoming a hardscape supplier, there needs to be a real commitment. You can’t just dabble in it.”
Jones says “dabbling in it” means not ensuring that your employees have the knowledge base, and selling only a limited range of product. “You have to think like a contractor, and contractors think in terms of systems,” Jones points out. “You need to sell the complete system—and become the hardscape supplier to that contractor.”
As is always the case, it helps to be a large retailer that can buy in larger volumes. However, Jones says single-location equipment dealerships can also make a good run in hardscaping if current landscape customers are performing the service or seriously considering it. Dealers also need adequate lot space to store the inventory, along with a forklift or loader to transport the pallets of materials, etc. It’s all about being price-competitive and, more importantly, making things more convenient for the landscaper.
More Opportunities for Dealers
That’s what Cincinnati-based Klei Mower has been doing for its landscape customers: making things more convenient by reducing the number of vendors they must deal with. Klei Mower began selling mulch a couple of years ago.
“Mulch sales have been getting better each year, turning into a very profitable segment of our business,” says owner Dennis Klei. The key has been carrying a very high-quality product—word of mouth then does the rest. “The only advertising we do is our phone system’s on-hold message,” Klei points out.
There is also plenty of equipment you can sell to help your landscape customers branch out and grow their businesses—some of which isn’t a far stretch from what you’re already doing. Products such as aerators, edgers, tillers, trenchers, sprayers and spreaders enable contractors to offer services that are a natural extension of landscape maintenance. Compact construction equipment such as mini skid steers, tractors and implements will help them break into installation and hardscaping. And remember, renting these types of equipment is a great option.
Many dealers are also finding success with products that don’t necessarily help their landscape customers sell more services, but rather, simply fill a need. Items such as personal protective equipment (PPE), work boots and hand tools contribute significantly to many dealers’ revenue and profit streams.
Trailers are another good example. In an August 2008 survey of Green Industry PRO subscribers (landscape contractors), 94% of landscapers said they own a trailer, and 36% said they will purchase at least one more within the next three years. The question is: Where will they buy them?
Crane’s Outdoor Power Equipment in Canaan, CT, began selling trailers in 2001. “We had a few inquiries from landscapers about where they could purchase trailers locally,” says Rich Crane Jr. “There weren’t any trailer dealers close to us, so I thought, ‘Why don’t we start selling them?’ Really, it makes perfect sense. With the size of today’s equipment, you don’t see the typical commercial user putting a mower in the back of his truck anymore.”
Branching into new product areas takes time and patience, not to mention a carefully thought-out strategy. Leading dealers are doing it, because the landscape is changing. The more you can sell to help your landscape customers adapt and thrive, the better off you both can be.