2024 State of the Industry Q+A: Christin Wam, Ferris Mowers

Christin (CJ) Wam, senior director of marketing, Ferris Mowers at Briggs & Stratton, provides her thoughts on the current state of the green industry.

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Christin (CJ) Wam, senior director of marketing, Ferris Mowers at Briggs & Stratton, provides her thoughts on the current state of the green industry. 

Green Industry Pros: What challenges has the green industry faced recently? 

Wam: Like most of our peers in the outdoor power equipment manufacturing sector, one of the biggest challenges in 2023 was the unforeseen increase in interest rates. I think most of us planned for interest rate increases between 4 and 6 percent but realizing 9.5 percent interest rates is a very significant hit to everybody's bottom line. And, it’s a double-edged sword. Not only are we paying more, but end user customers are either putting off purchases or opting for lower-priced models to offset the steep increase in financing.

Just as manufacturers like us were recovering from supply chain issues that plagued us since the global pandemic, production was getting back to normal and inventory in our warehouses and on dealer floors were increasing, interest rates slowed down the demand.

So, within the industry we saw significant promotions and discounting to move inventory out of dealerships. That said, dealers are still sitting on a lot of inventory which we’ve had to factor into our 2024 forecasts.

Green Industry Pros: What trends have you noticed within the industry? 

Wam: While we believe that electrification is the future for outdoor power equipment, we did see a slowdown in the adoption rate of electrification that we didn’t forecast. While every manufacturer was trying to race to the finish line to have electric solutions available, the demand we expected to see just wasn’t there. Monitoring adoption rates of electrification is certainly something we’re looking at as we manage our product roadmap for electrified products, along with tracking government and HOA behavior when it comes to emissions and sound.

Green Industry Pros: What are your expectations going into 2024? 

Wam: Going into 2024, we have taken into account the interest rates remaining high and the election year always causing some economic uncertainty and resulting declines in consumer confidence. We’re focused on delivering the inventory that the market needs and will be managing production and inventory with that in mind.

A bright spot that we see from a product perspective is stand-on mowers. That segment is performing well for us as more and more contractors are realizing the productivity and ease-of-use benefits of adding stand-on mowers to their fleets.

One area that we see as an opportunity in 2024 is helping our dealer partners optimize their service and parts business. If their customers are going to be holding on to equipment longer, they're going to want to service that equipment and keep it running. We’ll be working with our dealers to make sure that they've got the right parts on hand and the right advertising in place to remind customers to service their units at regular recommended intervals.

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