Now, 80% of the showroom is dedicated to displaying commercial products. “We work very hard for our landscapers and that is what it comes down to,” explains Tuthill. “Nearly every year they are buying new equipment, and regularly need repairs and parts.” The Internet has taken away some of their parts business, making it easy for the end-user to purchase parts. Landscapers, who need parts fast and frequent, continue to stop in regularly for anything from blades to trimmer line to oil.
The Tuthills have focused on providing commercial equipment options to contractors, but they won’t shut out a consumer customer, many of whom come in after visiting an area big box. As houses in the area continued to go up, big boxes did as well. “We tried to coexist with them initially, doing service work for the local Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Tractor Supply,” says Tuthill. “But we couldn’t find a way to make money doing it.”
The warranty repairs didn’t pay, and have since stopped. Consumer customers continue to come in for repairs on equipment bought elsewhere, but are quickly informed that they won’t be first on the “to do” list. “Shop wise, we work on the homeowner stuff as much as we can,”says Tuthill. “But it is explained that if a homeowner has purchased something from us, they are in the normal lineup on the service side. If they haven’t, we will service it, but let them know that my customers come first.” Tuthill says this honest explanation sometimes angers customers, but many other times it helps convert one of the big box shoppers into a dealer-loyal customer.
“I have customers that decide to purchase from us after being explained the situation,” shares Tuthill. “We are very proud of the way we take care of our customers, and it shows. I would say I get just as many sales that way as I would trying to work on everything the mass merchants send our way.”
To the Tuthills, a visit from a consumer is just another opportunity to pair someone up with a commercial unit. “Roughly 20-25% of my commercial sales are to residential customers,” says Tuthill. “In our area, customers have anywhere from two- to three-acre yards and are getting tired of the throwaway tractors that give them nothing but problems.”
Tuthill and his team, which consists of wife Gayle, daughter Susan and son Paul (see “The Lean Team” on page 12 for more), appeal to the value of time vs. money when selling commercial-grade equipment to residential users. “We explain to them that for a little bit more money, they will get a lawn that looks like a landscaper maintains it, but in very little time,” says Tuthill. “The equipment is also going to last nearly 15 years because they aren’t running the product to the max like it is designed for.”
Once one person in the neighborhood gets a mower from Hudson Valley Power, others take notice and often come in for their own piece of equipment. They may have even seen Tuthill himself on a neighbor’s lawn giving a demo. “We try to get the serious customers to know what the product’s about and think about what it can do for them,” says Tuthill. “We often do that with onsite demos of three or four units similar in size to what they need or want.”
IN THE SHOP AND BEHIND THE WHEEL
Tuthill’s bright, welcoming dealership and strong commercial sales tactics do a lot to bring the customers through the doors. On top of that, his son Paul is not only a top-notch mechanic, but also a bit of a celebrity. When he’s not turning wrenches in the shop, he’s taking laps around the racetrack in his Ford Thunderbird (paultuthillracing.com).
Paul, like his father, has been a fan of racing since a very young age. “I grew up at the racetracks,” says Tuthill. “My son started the same way, going to his first race when he was four.” Paul started racing at the age of 13 and is now 18 years old.
His racing has been a passion of the family and has turned into a marketing opportunity for the business as well. “If Paul hadn’t gotten involved in racing, I would have probably put the business’s name on another car because many people from the area attend races,” explains Tuthill. “It’s a good marketing tool. The people that see races remember the names on the side of the car.”
Along with the dealership’s name, race goers will also see several sponsor logos. Sponsors include manufacturers, landscape contractors and other area businesses. “We use it as a tool for helping Paul, while the sponsors reciprocate very well by sending customers my way,” explains Tuthill.