At the end of February, Hustler Turf dealers learned that the mower manufacturer (Excel Industries) would start selling some of their products through Home Depot and Lowe’s. Many dealers are feeling undervalued and unsupported in the move. Others see it as an opportunity.
The products included in the “test-run” are consumer zero-turn mowers. While this may not seem to directly impact landscape contractors, it could bear some weight. This move has the potential to affect contractors in two ways:
1. Dealers who deal mainly on the commercial mower side of Hustler products are going to be confronted with consumers bringing their units in for repair and potentially bogging down the shop. These customers will have less product knowledge and aren’t going to get much information from the Big Box. As they have questions about general operation, fuel issues and light maintenance, they will turn to their dealers.
Many dealers have a system for prioritizing customers and placing contractors at the front of the line for repairs. For those who don’t, it could mean increased downtime for the commercial cutter. It’s important for dealers to develop systems that maintain the customer service contractors have grown to expect.
Dealers should offer contractors priority service in the shop and work with them on parts purchasing plans to ensure parts are in-stock when they need them. Hosting customer education seminars for consumers who bought their mower down the street, could also help reduce the amount of overall time tied up answering questions or working on easily avoided repairs when more loyal and valuable customers could be needing assistance.
2. Setting up the Big Box store competitors like Home Depot and Lowe’s with the same products as dealers often impacts the typical dealer's staying power. So when the contractor turns to his dealer for product and support, hopefully the dealer hasn't been squeezed out by his new Big Box competitor.
As you think about how valuable dealers are to the contractor market, try to come up with ways dealers and contractors can work together to see success and sustainability as Green Industry businesses. Work together on purchasing and service agreements, as well as joint marketing efforts, to get the word out on the quality contribution you make to both the industry and your marketplace as independently owned businesses.