Dealers who didn't properly stock up on consumer riders this year may be mowed over by customers hungry to make a purchase. The season started out strong and early, with homeowners hitting up dealer open houses with plans to buy.
Following the trends in consumer purchasing, and personalizing your sales and service, can keep that momentum started in the early spring going through the summer.
Warm weather early in the year had consumers excited to buy, and as a result dealers saw a surge in showroom traffic. Many equipment manufacturers have cited high volume orders in ride-on and walk-behind consumer mower products. Forecasts also indicate that the demand could continue through the coming months.
"The lawn and garden season started off strong with the unseasonably warm weather that most of the country saw," says Mike Van Helvoirt, product marketing manager for residential at Ariens Company. "The demand spike was pulled forward by about 30 days in many parts of the country."
Sales are already ahead of last year, signifying what could be a strong recovery year for the product segment. Dealers are continuing to refresh their consumer rider inventories in the selling season, but many are cautiously optimistic.
"The consumer mower market seems to be regaining strength," says Kim Ridel, tactical brand manager for riding lawn equipment at John Deere. "At this point in time, industry sales are ahead of last year, which of course, is very positive. Due to the early arrival of spring in various parts of the U.S., dealer orders started early and have continued at a steady pace. Given that industry sales are ahead of last year, we’re optimistic, but it’s really too soon to tell."
According to the most recent shipment data from OPEI, mower shipments are up 8.1% from 2011. Even stronger growth is anticipated for 2013. Sales of consumer mowers are being driven by housing starts and consumers with more disposable income. Both will continue to increase in the next two years, according to the report.
Customer buying trends
To further guarantee your success in the selling season, it is important to stay clued into the trends in consumer purchasing. Know what your consumer customers are after, and be sure to keep products that meet their needs and desires in stock.
"Due to the early spring weather this season, we have had a quick start to season spring demand from both the consumer side and the professional side of our business," says Jeff Hallgren, director of product and channel development at Schiller Grounds Care. "Driving the consumer side of our business is their need for value price points that provide professional performance in cut, traction and maneuverability, comfort and controls."
Many large-property owners have, in recent years, taken on lawn maintenance chores that they had previously contracted a landscaper to perform. They want to get the same results as a professional, but do it themselves in as little time as possible.
"We sell a lot of mowers to large-acreage owners who want a reliable mower so they can finish their yard work, get a carpet-like cut and still have most of the weekend left for fun with the family," agrees Patsy Penner, marketing coordinator for The Grasshopper Company.
Ridel agrees, saying homeowners are looking for features like power steering, power lift and comfortable seats that make their lives easier. There is also a visible trend of consumers choosing zero-turn mowers over the traditional garden tractor.
Residential rider sales are up 5.3% in 2012. With this growth, the industry size will be up to 1.16 million, but still much lower than the 1.7-1.8 million shipment levels seen between 2003 and 2005.
Husqvarna has recently introduced a new lawn tractor. "The Fast Tractor is designed to fit the needs of consumers who demand all-around high performance and high quality," says John Marchionda, vice president of marketing for Husqvarna. "We chose to officially launch this product now to bring awareness to consumers during lawn care season and to capitalize on the SPEED association with our partners (Lowe's, Jimmie Johnson, and Anything with an Engine video game) so that the Fast Tractor brand promise really resonates with consumers."