The Encore facility in Beatrice, NE.
Jamie Ware, Worldlawn and Encore marketing manager
Worldlawn, operated by the Chinese company Jiangsu World Plant-Protecting Machinery, purchased the failing Encore Manufacturing to aid in their plan to expand U.S. operations of Worldlawn and add to the existing product lines.
When news of the transaction spread, industry forums were buzzing with criticism over the Chinese-owned Worldlawn buying up an American company. Critics predicted that the American-made brand would soon be manufactured outside the U.S. It may come as a surprise, but the move will actually be the other way around.
U.S. assembly across the board
A recent interview with Jamie Ware of Worldlawn and Encore revealed that the company will be moving all assembly of previously China-assembled Worldlawn products to the U.S. for assembly in the Beatrice, NE, factory with the Encore brand.
On one industry forum, a site visitor commented: "Maybe they have a trick up their sleeve. Maybe they will offshore everything two years from now. Versus the alternative, it's certainly better to have Chinese companies employing Americans than having unemployed Americans."
At present, all of the company's administrative operations are in Beatrice, NE, as well as the assembly of the Encore brand of products. The company at present is shipping all the American-made parts like wheels, tires, engines and fuel tanks for the Worldlawn brand to China for assembly and then shipping the product back directly to distributors. Soon, Worldlawn will join Encore and be assembled in the U.S.
"Our plan is that in October of this year, we will be moving all assembly from China to Beatrice," explains Ware, marketing manager. "We have done very well this year in keeping up with production to meet demand. The huge disadvantage we have right now is the 30- to 45-day lead time for getting an order to travel here from China."
Ware explains that the lead time played a big role in their decision to move assembly, as well as the considerable amount they will be saving on shipping costs. The company says it is seeing a lot of excitement from dealers and distributors regarding their decision. Time is money for all parties involved, and as the brands grow, equipment needs to be available as soon as possible.
"So far we have been able to meet demand, but we foresee future growth and want to be able to meet it in the future," says Ware. "In this business it depends on the weather. If the season goes longer and we have a late fall, people might want another order. If we can't get it before those 45 days, we might lose that business. Having it here in the U.S. is a huge advantage."
Moving Worldlawn operations will also create jobs in the area. The company currently has roughly 30 employees in Beatrice, NE, and anticipates hiring another 10 to 15 once the Worldawn operations have transitioned over. The company is exploring new facility and expansion options to house Beatrice, NE, operations.
Rebuilding distribution network
Since Worldlawn purchased Encore, they have rebuilt their distribution network and reformatted the Encore brand's distribution style. While Worldlawn will continue to be handled through two-step distribution, Encore has gone to a one-step rep program.
As a result of the distribution changes, some of the original Encore distributors have elected not to return to represent the brand. The company has worked hard to fill the void with new and enthusiastic distributors.
"Some of the distributors were not excited about that program," says Ware. "We have aligned ourselves with some new distributors in the last year. All are very aggressive and as excited about the brands as we are."
One original Encore distributor who has returned to work with the brand is skeptical of how it may play out, saying: "We would have preferred a distributor program. However, we are willing to see how the new 'rep' program might play out. We chose to stay with Encore because of our long-term relationship with the company and their employees, and the fact that the product is manufactured in Nebraska."
Another distributor approached the company to distribute the Worldlawn brand after hearing about the opportunity from another distributorship. Soon, they were asked to add Encore and did so gladly.
"We had been doing Worldlawn for about four months and things had already taken off," says Brett Beddow, the field sales manager with General Power Equipment out of Columbus, OH. "They approached us asking if we would be interested in Encore. Knowing the history, Encore appealed to us because it was always known as an American company. Once they bought the Encore facility in Beatrice, it really formed the Worldlawn U.S. footprint as well. The history with Encore means there are a lot more units in the field for parts and service possibilities for our dealers."
New products and people
When they first bought Encore, Worldlawn purchased only the assets of the business, not the existing products in dealer showrooms. The company continues to service warranties for these products as they aim to grow the product lines. They now have a team of engineers from other mower manufacturers poised to take the companies and their products to the next level.
"In the last year we have hired two new engineers that are currently working on line extensions with some new product development and improvements for both the Encore and Worldlawn lines," explains Ware. "Our plan is to have these new lines up and running for GIE+EXPO in Louisville for the 2013 selling season."
One of the things that attracted Beddow to the brands was their low price point and the variety of products. "The two product lines are not identical," says Beddow. "A lot of companies that have multiple brands offer the exact same thing with a different paint job. These are two completely different units that are rugged, dependable, well-built, and at a price $2,000 less than the competition."
According to Ware, some were still asking for more product options from the lines. That is a request that the company is preparing to meet in their quest to increase the popularity of both brands. They will be expanding both the residential and commercial lines of mowers.
"We have had a lot of dealers and distributors asking for line extensions," says Ware. "We want to be able to go to a dealer and give them a complete line and not just a single commercial mower."
They are seeing excitement among dealers and distributors regarding these changes and improvements. Sales for Worldlawn are up so far this year as both brands have seen a busy season.
"A lot of people are really excited and happy that the brand is back," explains Ware. "For a while they couldn’t get service and parts. They can see, with us moving assembly and operations to the center of the U.S., that we are here to stay. Our parent company is making a large investment—and they understand what it takes to be competitive in this business."