Like most product categories, chainsaw sales saw a boost from the early spring. To top that off, a lot of dealers saw the "upside" to tornadoes with an increase in chainsaw parts sales and maintenance as a result of the unexpected need to clear storm debris. The fall peak season could add to these sales, leaving dealers reporting high numbers at the year's end.
“Chainsaw sales are doing great both at Echo and in the industry as a whole," says Brad Mace, product manager at Echo. "Chainsaw shipments from manufacturers are up about 10% year-to-date while Echo is up considerably more than that.”
While the product segment has seen significant growth, it is still down from prerecession levels. According to Mace, when compared to 2006, industry chainsaw shipments are down about 5% year-to-date.
Storms in the early part of the year, in the form of unexpected tornadoes and snowfalls, helped to push chainsaw sales. The push in sales, however, did not match the effect of the fall 2005 hurricane season on dealer inventories.
“Chainsaw shipments have done very well in the first part of the year through April due to storm activity, including cleanup from the 'Snowtober' in New England and the January snow storm in Seattle,” says Steve Meriam, manager of national sales and product development for Stihl Inc. “Although a strong market, 2011 and first quarter 2012 are still not as strong as 2006, as we were coming off of a very active hurricane season in fall of 2005, and restocking activity had a positive impact in 2006.”
Husqvarna has also experienced growth over 2011, especially among their high-end chainsaws. Their professional users are seeking products that are easy to maintain.
"Our AutoTune feature automatically monitors the performance of the unit, taking things like fuel type into account, and automatically adjusting to optimize the saw’s performance," explains Jeff Dewosky, vice president of dealer sales for Husqvarna.
Commercial and consumer cutters are looking for similar features that add up to a durable and easy-to-use product. Whether in the yard or on the jobsite, the chainsaw should offer quality results and be comfortable to handle for extended periods.
"Fuel efficiency, low vibration and good power-to-weight ratio are particularly important to pro users who are using units for an extended period of time, and should be considered by home users with larger properties, as well," Meriam explains.
"Contractors or commercial users are looking for power, durability, and more and more are looking for a lightweight product," agrees Mace. "To that end, Echo has been focusing on lightweight chainsaws."
While there is a noticeable increase in chainsaw sales this year, it is not an easy sell. Customers are looking for lots of quality features at a reasonable price. Before they make the decision to buy, end users want to know they are getting what they pay for.
“A good value for their dollar is what customers are looking for, whether they are a home user or pro," says Meriam. "Reliability and durability are desirable traits."
The primary feature homeowners are seeking is an easy-to-start chainsaw that starts every time. When they only use the equipment a few times a year, it is important that it is reliable.
“Sixty percent of consumers use their saws four times a year or less, so they want product that is easy to start and safe to use, which is why we equip our saws with the effortless pull system (EPS)," says Dewosky. "EPS reduces the effort to pull by 30%. In addition, our integrated choke and on/off switch make starting the saw extremely easy since there is only one step involved.”
New product regulations and features
The ever-changing emission regulations keep manufacturers on their toes—and consumers want to trust that the products they buy will comply. Noise and emission regulation compliance is continuously bringing new technology and products to the market.
“Echo has been able to meet all the new emission regulations with standard 2-stroke engine technology," says Mace.
Low noise and low emissions are especially factors on residential properties and in certain communities. Stihl offers an emission-free option with their battery-powered products.
“We’ve been pleased with the results so far, but have been marketing the full line of battery products for less than a year,” says Meriam. “We anticipate that the lithium-ion market will grow over time as battery technology continues to improve."
Meriam suggests that dealers target niche customers and applications. Residential users should be sold on the convenience of the units that require no fuel mixture or power cords. Professional users will prefer the units for applications that are sensitive to noise and exhaust emissions.
“Customers will also find lower operating costs appealing. How much will depend on which battery, which tools, and their personal operating practices,” adds Meriam.
It all falls on the weather
Typically, the chainsaw market sees the bulk of their sales in the fall with the storm season. This year, weather has shown to be even more unpredictable than usual. The early spring could have an effect on the surge of sales dealers usually plan for in the fall. The extended tree care season could mean replacement parts and chainsaw sales.
“Due to the early spring throughout the U.S., sales for all types of outdoor power equipment has been pulled forward by several weeks," says Mace. "The early spring resulted in a longer landscaping or tree care season which should promote strong sales this fall as equipment needs to be replaced."
Chainsaw sales this fall will also depend on the storm activity in the South and East. With the future storm season being unpredictable, manufacturers like Husqvarna are hoping to grab consumer interest with new product introductions.
"Typically, fall peak season performance depends heavily on the amount of activity during storm season," says Dewosky. "This fall, we have new product rolling out, so we expect to have a strong season regardless."