Since 1923, Weyers Equipment Inc. in Kaukauna, WI, has offered a little something extra for the landscape customer. Contractors could purchase or service power equipment, and also enjoyed easy access to grass seed, fertilizer, lawn care chemicals and pond supplies from the day the dealership opened. In 2005, the equipment dealership also branched into the hardscape supplies business.
“They (owners Gary and Keith Weyers) felt that this was a good add-on to what they were doing at the time,” says Jeff Ebben, landscape sales manager at Weyers Equipment Inc.
Adding hardscape supplies to the business has proven to be a good choice. Now, hardscaping supplies make up 11% of the dealership’s total revenue and nearly 70% of their landscape supplies sales.
The majority of customers who purchase the hardscaping supplies are commercial installers (96%) but there is also a small DIY customer base (4%) that has taken advantage of the offering.
A strong market
The team at Weyers is pretty confident in the state of the hardscaping market and the opportunities the segment presents for contractors and the dealership. Homeowners’ continued interest in outdoor living spaces has helped the market to see continued growth. Jeff says he sees a lot of room in the market for contractors who are interested in branching into the hardscape installation business and exploring another way to generate revenue.
“Most of my contractors have more work than people,” explains Jeff. “I think the down economy has forced a lot of people out of the industry, and now with the resurgence of work there are not enough people to satisfy the market’s needs.”
Starting out in hardscaping will require an investment in education and the equipment necessary for installs. Jeff suggests contractors obtain training and certification from the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (icpi.org) and the National Concrete Masonry Association (ncmahq.org).
There is also room for dealers who may be considering adding the product category. What they will need, Jeff advises, is someone on staff who is knowledgeable about hardscaping supplies and materials.
“I have seen two other dealerships try and fail because they did not have enough knowledge of the industry,” says Jeff. “They were also in smaller markets that did not have enough business to support hardscape.”
Jeff suggests dealers consult hardscape suppliers to get a feel for what opportunities are in their area and talk to customers about their needs. He anticipates that the overall market will continue to grow the next several years if the economy continues to improve.
“The outdoor living space movement is just reaching our market,” says Jeff. “I think this movement will last for the next five to eight years given the economy continues to get stronger.”
It takes more than a strong economy to help a dealer or contractor to succeed in the Green Industry. Knowing how to price services properly to cover costs and earn a profit is vital. For the past two years, Jeff has been teaching estimating to contractors at the local technical college.
“I had been on an advisory committee for a few years and the lead instructor asked if I would be interested in teaching an estimating course,” explains Jeff. “I had for a long time complained that there was a large deficiency in math and estimating skills in the marketplace when it came to landscape contractors.”
In his courses, Jeff teaches contractors to create and understand income statements and balance sheets. He shows students what information they can derive from these two reports and how to use the reports to manage their companies. Jeff and the team at Weyers also educate their own customers on how to better price and manage their hardscaping businesses and materials.
“I teach them how to determine overhead and how to conduct time studies,” says Jeff. “We talk about the cost of equipment operation and maintenance, and how to budget for a profit.”