Dealers now in the spring selling season should be seeing trimmer products quickly selling, as manufacturers are predicting another strong year for the product category. The pattern of growth in the market is continuing as manufacturers introduce product features that comfort the homeowner and impress the commercial user.
Expected growth in 2012
Based on sales in recent years, and dealer inventory orders for 2012, many manufacturers are cautiously optimistic that the trimmer product category will see growth this year. Strong numbers in both areas show the probability of steady gains.
"The trimmer market has had consistent growth over the last two years," says Jeff Dewosky, vice president of dealer sales for Husqvarna North America. "It is still early in the year, and we are waiting for grass to grow, but this category is expected to grow compared to previous years. Dealer outlooks for 2012 have been positive and optimistic."
Too early in the season to report on actual sales numbers, manufacturers are sharing in the optimism of both dealers and consumers. An improved outlook on the economy shows promise for a successful year in trimmer sales, while possible drought conditions could pose as a threat.
"It's still early in the year and we are not seeing strong retail sales yet, but we are optimistic based on dealer fall bookings with our distributors," shares Marv Mathwig, power tools product manager for Stihl Inc. "Orders are up and we are anticipating a 5% increase in sales, barring anything unforeseen like a major drought. Droughts are an issue that could really hurt."
Who is buying and why
As it is in many product categories, the bulk of homeowner sales for trimmers will come in the spring, with contractors buying year-round based on individual need. The better the spring growing season, the better sales should be in turn.
"Generally speaking, we see a continuous sales cycle during the year within the professional market, while homeowners and consumers tend to buy more seasonally," says Dewosky.
Overall, the market for trimmers is largely homeowner. Both the homeowner and commercial markets continue to grow, but the homeowners represent the bulk of market-wide sales.
"The market is primarily homeowners or do-it-yourselfers," reports Mathwig. "A big section of Stihl sales is landscapers and municipalities, but that is still a minor part of the total market. For Stihl, both the homeowner market as well as the professional is growing."
As the markets have grown, so has the desire of customers for certain product features. While the homeowners seek accessibility and ease-of-use, commercial users want durability that matches price.
"The homeowners are going for easy starting and features like our momentary stop switch that reverts back to the 'on' position after you stop the engine," says Mathwig. "Convenience features are more for the homeowner, and not necessarily required or desired by the professional. They look for reliability, durability, a powerful performance and service after the sale."
As always, customers look to their dealers for the one-stop shopping experience and product knowledge. Knowledgeable dealers who offer strong brands are more likely to get the sale.
Year-round promotion pushes sales
With sales coming year-round from commercial users and in the spring from homeowners, a combination of marketing throughout the year combined with a strong push early in the year can be most effective.
"We have been very purposeful this year in developing focused marketing and promotional opportunities for dealers around the trimmer category," says Dewosky. "We believe that our focused efforts will help us continue to drive sales."
Reaching out to consumers early in the year with information on products and their options grabs their attention early in the decision-making process. It keeps your business top-of-mind when it's time to pull the trigger on a purchase.
"Normally, the retail sales will occur in March, April and May," says Mathwig. "We really focus on marketing efforts during January, February and March. That is when customers are trying to prepare for the purchasing decision they are going to make."
Remaining flexible and having an early start on marketing for the year also works in the dealers' favor when they meet an early spring. Waiting too long to start strong marketing of trimmers could mean missing the boat on spring sales.
"Weather and seasonality have a huge effect on when customers begin buying trimmers," Dewosky explains. "Dealers should have all of their marketing materials in place around the beginning of the year, and though we like to give them guidelines on when marketing efforts should begin, we do want to have flexibility in our marketing programs if, for instance, certain regions have a late or early spring so they can communicate to customers when their need is greatest."