Bill Wright, founder and president of Wright Manufacturing, is a good person to ask about the evolution of the stand-on zero-turn riding mower. His company first started building stand-ons in the late ’90s. Wright says that the market for stand-ons started on a path to reaching critical mass around 2007-9 when several other mower manufacturers began introducing stand-on units. Five years later, Wright says the market could be ready to reach a tipping point.
Another Bill, Bill Engler with Gravely, is also a good person to ask about the progress stand-ons have made. Gravely is one of the more recent entrants into the stand-on category. “There has been an increasing amount of interest over the past five years,” Engler says. As more manufacturers have introduced stand-on mowers, awareness among landscape contractors has grown. “As contractors learn the benefits of a stand-on, many are realizing it is a viable option—especially those in urban areas,” Engler adds.
Toro and Exmark are two more stand-on manufacturers. While they, along with Gravely, are reluctant to share proprietary sales data, they will say that stand-on mower sales continue to increase year after year. However, stand-on sales aren’t growing any faster than the sit-down zero-turn rider. So the stand-on, although gaining in popularity, continues to play second fiddle to the sit-down.
Where are stand-ons preferred?
In some instances, however, the stand-on is the preferred option for a mowing contractor. “I can fit three 60-inch mowers on a trailer (due to the stand-on’s compact size),” says Jason Fawcett of Elizabeth River Landscape Management based in Suffolk, VA. “But they still provide that nice cut swath, so they’re very productive. This is my best option when sending a five-man crew to a larger commercial property.”
Fawcett also likes the fact that you get a much better view of the area you’re mowing with a stand-on. “When sitting in a seat, you’re too low to really get a look at that stump hiding in the grass, for instance,” Fawcett relates.
In the stand-on’s earlier years, industry insiders projected that stand-on growth would happen at the expense of intermediate walk mowers. That has definitely happened to some degree. But stand-ons have also taken some sales away from the sit-down category.
To Georgia dealer Aubie Campbell of Campbell’s Lawn Equipment, there is one primary reason why some of his landscape customers are switching from sit-downs to stand-ons: Stand-ons are just as fast, and a lot more compact. Campbell is also seeing strong acceptance of the stand-on concept among his younger customers. To them, standing up is something different and “cool.” And because these younger contractors are still relatively new to the business, they aren’t as stuck on the idea of sit-down mowing.
Nonetheless, Campbell says just 10% of his commercial mower sales are stand-ons. But that percentage has grown in recent years, and has happened naturally as a result of increased interest among contractors. Campbell’s Lawn Equipment sells and services Gravely, Exmark and Toro stand-on mowers from its two stores in Forest Park and McDonough, GA.
Connecticut dealer Rich Crane Jr. of Crane’s Outdoor Power Equipment in Canaan has had a different experience with the stand-on mower. Crane’s sells the Scag brand, which has come to include the V-Ride stand-on mower. Because of the market Crane’s serves, property sizes and scopes do not lend themselves well to the stand-on concept.
“Most of our landscape customers are running 61-inch (sit-down) riding mowers, and then have a 52-inch hydro walk mower to mow tighter areas and hillsides,” Crane Jr. explains. “Many of our customers want to replace that walk mower with a stand-on in hopes of utilizing the stand-on more often on larger areas of the lawn. This is great in theory, but the stand-on definitely can’t replace the hydro walker on steep side hills or when needing to get under low trees.