The Toro Company seems to be all over the news these days. News of acquisitions and sales increases, as well as new product introductions, have kept Toro busy and some dealers wondering: What is Toro's plan for the future, and how do dealers benefit?
Strong sales continue into 2012
For their fiscal year ending October 31, 2011, The Toro Company reported a sales increase of 11.5%. They saw 14.2% growth in the professional products segment and a 5.8% increase in homeowner purchases.
Toro has reported year-over-year growth as a company. The U.S. market specifically has shown good signs of a strong future. After closing out their first quarter, Toro has seen promising sales in spite of surprising weather patterns.
"We’re seeing very encouraging signs across both our professional and residential business," says Branden Happel, Toro’s senior public relations manager. "Despite the unseasonably warm weather and lack of snowfall across much of the snowbelt, preseason activity has been strong among golf customers, landscapers and homeowners."
Happel reports that customers seem generally more upbeat and optimistic for the season ahead as signs point to an improved economy. Many customers are finally looking to replace aging fleets. Additionally, Toro is seeing excitement regarding its new product offerings and sales that follow.
"While early in the season, spring retail is off to a good start," says Happel. "Driving much of the demand in our residential business are consumers’ and retailers’ acceptance of our new lineup of zero-turn mowers and walk power mowers, including our Toro TimeMaster 30” wide-area walk-behind mower."
Growing through acquisitions
As they notice the global demand for golf, grounds and ag equipment rising, the company is working aggressively to gain market share in key product segments. They have done so through their acquisition of the Graden Greens Roller Line and Astec Undergrounds' equipment.
The purchase of the Graden Green Roller Line introduces Toro to a new product category and strengthens theirs and dealers' relationships with the grounds maintenance customer base.
"Ask almost any golf course superintendent, and they’ll tell you their greens are top priority. They’re constantly working to achieve improved agronomic conditions, while creating healthy and consistent turf conditions," says Happel. "What this greens roller product does is help strengthen our position in the greens care category for the golf market and helps fill a product gap in our portfolio. This product also has potential application in other markets like sports fields."
Not long after the Graden acquisition, Toro purchased Astec Undergrounds’ equipment line of vibratory plows, trenchers and horizontal directional drills for the underground utilities market. This includes several models in each category, but does not include Astec’s Trencor line. Many of the machines are used to install utilities with minimal impact on the surrounding landscape.
"It represents a market close to our core businesses that has the potential for significant global opportunity," says Happel. "We see great upside for innovation similar to what we’ve done with our TRX trencher and STX stump grinder. There’s also opportunity to leverage Toro’s experience in the parts and dealer business to strengthen the channel for these products."
Products create opportunity
Through their acquisitions and new product introductions, Toro has provided dealers with many opportunities for growing their own customer base and also offering more options to customers. As mentioned earlier, a big push in Toro sales is thanks to the Toro TimeMaster 30" Wide-Area Walk-Behind Mower. A good fit for large-property homeowners, it gives dealers the opportunity to upsell on the typical walk-behind unit.
"As currently designed, the new TimeMaster wide-area mower is intended for homeowners who have a big lawn and a busy schedule," says Ross Hawley, marketing manager for Toro’s residential and landscape contractor businesses. "The TimeMaster will help them cut their lawn up to 40% faster than if they were using a typical 21-inch walk-behind mower."
The Z Master Commercial 2000 Series is designed for acreage owners, as well as budget-minded professionals. It gives dealers another opportunity to upsell a homeowner while offering a contractor the opportunity to update their fleet at a lower cost. When replacing equipment in their fleets, contractors are looking for something durable that will be worth the price. Toro is working to meet contractor product needs in order to keep dealer sales stable.
"Durability is the price of admission. Machines have to stand up to the daily rigors of commercial mowing and be reliable enough to perform for hours, day after day in a variety of conditions," says Happel. "But they also have to be comfortable. When contractors are as comfortable as possible, they can be as productive as possible—from sun up to sun down."