Dealer orders are up as the warm temperatures and early spring push commercial mower sales. Manufacturers are also citing optimistic consumers for the anticipated increase in sales. As gas prices go up, those customers who are looking to buy are seeking out fuel-efficient equipment.
Orders are up, early spring pushes sales
Dealers have made larger inventory orders this year than a few years ago, as they anticipate an increase in sales. While spring moves into full swing, they are seeing good numbers already.
"Dealer orders are on pace with 2011, or slightly above, and better than 2010," says Tony Weber, BOB-CAT product manager. "We have a good start on an early spring, which is helping get people into our dealers."
The majority of customers this spring will come in the form of commercial cutters and high-end homeowners. Not rushing to make a purchase this year will be government programs.
"Government entities have been affected by reduced tax revenue and subsequent funding cuts, and so have the commercial operators who contract with government entities," says Ray Garvey of The Grasshopper Company. "But an early spring has contractors looking closely at commercial mowers."
Many manufacturers are citing optimism among dealers and consumers. This, combined with pent-up demand, could likely lead to an increase in sales over previous years.
"There is a growing sense of optimism among Exmark’s dealer and distributor channel for the upcoming spring and summer mowing season," shared Daryn Walters, director of marketing at Exmark. "Our dealer partners have suggested that the pent-up demand that was created over the past two selling seasons, due to severe drought conditions and economic uncertainty, is about to break with the coming spring. All of these factors have resulted in very strong sales bookings thus far in 2012."
Promotions and advertising
While many dealers are off to a good start this selling season with the early spring, they should still remain active in their promotions and advertising. High volumes at annual open house events are helping to push sales and increase consumer awareness of products.
"Sales for 2012 have started out good based on the early spring we are seeing across the country," Weber says. "Many dealers are reporting good customer activity at spring open house events."
Manufacturers are offering sales programs in the spring and summer to help push those sales even further. Their efforts combined with that of the dealer could be the most effective.
"We have announced several new and exciting sales programs for the coming spring and summer," says Walters. "We believe that the combination of new products and great programming will result in a very successful selling season."
Fuel saving and knowledge gained
Current gas prices are high and it is anticipated they will only get higher. Customers—both consumer and commercial—are looking for products that are efficient and can save them some money on the cost of fuel.
"Recently we have seen a surge of interest in any products that can help curb the high cost of fuel," shares Weber. "We have seen interest in products with fuel-injected engines or liquid-propane engines. Both offer compelling reasons to consider as they have the potential to lower weekly fuel expenses."
The Toro Company has seen the same trend in their customer base. "We continue to see a demand for increased fuel efficiency, be it diesel, propane or EFI engines," says Brian Happel, The Toro Company’s senior public relations manager. "Contractors are also concerned about productivity, durability and operator comfort."
While customer needs and desires change, one thing always rings true: It's the dealer's knowledge and expertise that sells a product. Communicating the true value of a product to a customer and gaining their confidence in your knowledge is what will get you that initial sale and the repeat business that follows.
"Dealers who look for lifetime customers and repeat business realize customers will pay for value when they understand value," explains Garvey. "Rather than offering consumer-grade mowers with a few commercial features, dealers who direct customers to low-maintenance, long-lasting commercial equipment with high resale value and commercial components can earn credibility and long-term satisfaction from those customers who are ultimately making a substantial investment when they purchase a commercial mower."
Commercial contractors who have built strong relationships with their dealers understand what’s most important in commercial mowing equipment and what features offer the best value. Homeowners as well are looking for fairly priced equipment and long-lasting value. They would sooner trade in all the bells and whistles for quality commercial components.
"We have steadily increased our market share among acreage property owners," says Walters. "These customers are seeking the highest-quality products that can deliver the superior cut results of a professional landscape contractor."