Both dealers and manufacturers are hopeful for commercial mower sales in 2013. Orders are on par with 2012, and 62% of landscape contractors surveyed by our sister publication Green Industry PRO Magazine plan to buy a mower in 2013. The market for commercial walk mowers is also showing strength as some manufacturers introduce new models in the category.
2013 Sales expectations As the 2012 selling season came to a close, dealers had many successes and failures to reflect on when planning for 2013. Each year, dealers are at the mercy of the weather and economy.
“Dealer preparation for the upcoming season is directly related to the successes and challenges their dealerships faced in 2012,” explains Glenn Beyerl, president and managing member of distributor KPM Exceptional with locations in New York and New Jersey. “Dealers are still in a strong preparation mode; the economic pause brought on by the election is past and we can get down to the business of 2013.”
Some dealers from drought-stricken areas may still have small amounts of 2012 inventory that had to be carried over to 2013. In spite of that, many manufacturers are still reporting commercial mower orders being in-line with that of 2012.
“Dealer orders to date are equivalent to last season’s levels,” says Bill Shea, vice president of sales for commercial products at Briggs & Stratton Products Group. “Like OPEI, we expect the market to grow in 2013.”
Beyerl urges dealers to work with early predictions and “stack the odds” in their favor to better ensure their success in 2013. Reaching out to customers through hosting events and having one-on-one conversations can help you to better assess and plan for their needs in the coming year.
“Early plans to reach out to customers will help build a successful 2013,” says Beyerl. “Dealership events that address your customer’s business (what your customers need to be profitable) will also work to help create demand.”
Landscaper buying Intentions
Weather events in the last year have caused many ups and downs for landscape contractors. Their cash flow and the wear and tear—or lack thereof—on machines decides whether a purchase in 2013 is likely.
“The current weather cycle has not been ideal for some contractors in some areas of the country,” says Chris Hannan, marketing manager at Toro. “Last year, the light snow accumulations hurt landscape contractors that plow snow during the winter months, but the early spring put many crews back to work earlier in the year. Some contractors also had a slower summer because of drought conditions, but started to see business pick up this fall as those markets saw increased moisture.”
Coming into 2013, contractor equipment needs will be driven by the demands of their business. This reiterates the importance of connecting with your commercial customers to learn what they require of you.
“They will need to either purchase new equipment or maintain their existing fleets,” says Shea. “Either way, the dealer can count on business from the contractor.”
Commercial walk mowers
At industry tradeshow GIE+EXPO in October 2012, several manufacturers showcased new walk-behind mowers directed toward the commercial user. While Toro says they are still seeing increasing numbers of contractors purchasing stand-on mowers over walk-behinds, they see strength in the walk-behind category for the coming year.
“There is still a very strong market for 21-inch professional mowers although we’re starting to see a shift in that market as well,” shares Hannan. “In 2012, Toro introduced the TimeMaster 30-inch walk-behind mower that was designed for the homeowner market. While a huge homeowner success, many landscape contractors also purchased the TimeMaster to enjoy the high productivity of the 30-inch mower. In January 2013 we began shipping the professional TurfMaster 30-inch walk-behind mower. The TurfMaster is built specifically to withstand the demands of a contractor while significantly reducing mowing time, enabling contractors to get more done and enhance their profitability.”
Beyerl has seen renewed interest for commercial hydro walk-behind mowers in areas with large unsupervised crews where turf damage is a concern. Stand-on mowers are also gaining popularity, but he stresses it is all about the individual contractor and their needs.
“They (contractors) are all figuring out where this technology fits in their business,” says Beyerl. “The need for productivity will drive so much of the buying decisions in the near future.”
Prosumers are also assessing how these technologies can help them to maintain their own properties. Beyerl says the prosumer market is growing and should remain a dealer focus. Contractors and prosumers alike will be turning to their dealers in 2013 for a wide offering of commercial-grade mowers that provide a high-quality cut in less time.