Upfront: Dealers share optimistic outlook

A dozen of the top executives at the manufacturer, distributor and association levels graciously took the time to disclose their thoughts about the direction of the outdoor power equipment industry in our two-part “Industry Forecasts” series (see part two on pages 20-25). However, no industry outlook would be complete without the perspective of dealers.

When I recently asked several dealers how they fared in 2012 and what their expectations were for 2013, they reported mixed results for 2012, but all of them shared a sense of optimism for 2013.

“We had our largest year in our 43 years of business,” said David Vassey, Vassey Lawn and Garden Center, Cleveland, Tenn. “Plus, we had the largest single increase percentage-wise as well (up 21 percent over previous-best year). We had great weather with timely rain in late summer and all of fall. December 2012 was best on record, and March 2012 was as well. Local economy is good here, and with the right weather, I believe 2013 will be strong too. I can’t say we really expect to see such an increase as we had last year, but I do think we will be up. All categories of equipment were up. Our inventory level is very low, and parts and service were both up. Not 21 percent up. Our increase came mostly from equipment sales.”

In Greenville, R.I., 2012 was a tale of two halves for Matthew Borden, vice president of Ed & Matt Equipment. “The first six months of 2012 were very slow,” he said. “The spring rush never came, so by June 1, I laid off a mechanic and the parts salesman. I took over running the parts department, and as it turns out, it was a very smart decision. Believe it or not, the day after I laid those guys off, we became busy and finished with a pretty good year. I have since hired a new mechanic, and the shop continues to stay busy. From my viewpoint, 2013 is going to be a fantastic year. My store stayed busy in January not just selling parts, but also quoting a surprising number of new machines. I am extremely lucky to have a high percentage of loyal customers, so I know those quotes will become sales. I have also noticed restaurants and retail businesses have picked up considerably, which is proof people are starting to spend again.”

Tony Nation, owner, Nation’s Small Engine, Inc., Hot Springs, Ark., also experienced an up-and-down 2012, but he is excited about 2013. “The 2012 drought just about did us in, but we held on by the skin of our teeth,” he said. “My 2012 spring orders are now my 2013 spring orders. I’m really expecting a great year and really hoping to sell through my 2012 stock. My suppliers still want me to order their 2013 programs. It’s like they have already forgotten the drought. Been doing this 39 years and expecting to do it a little longer. Got a little shot in the arm with a small winter storm that brought down trees and caused power outages, so we were able to sell many chain saws and generators, and get a much-needed surge of repairs.”

Rob Leiser, Leiser Rental and Sales, Easton, Pa., said 2012 was a disappointment, but he has higher hopes for 2013. “2011 was a better year, and we expected to see growth in 2012,” he said. “The extra rental and repair business pushed in by Hurricane Sandy helped 2012 finish on a positive note. I am holding my breath for 2013 and will proceed cautiously.”

David A. Faxon III, president, Faxon’s Outdoor Power Equipment, Bowling Green, Ky., figures the OPE industry is bound to rebound in 2013. “Well, with ‘The Bull Run’ going on right now, things have to get better, right?” he said. “Actually, I think our industry will see an increase in retail sales. I feel like we have some temporary political stability. Whether you like (President Obama) or not, he’s going to be around for another four years, and the GOP realizes they’re going to have to compromise and quit trying to butt heads with him all the time. I think all the gridlock was affecting consumer confidence.”

And this just in: On Groundhog Day Feb. 2, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so spring is supposed to arrive early!

Well, I hope that Punxsutawney Phil is right, and I wish you the best of luck in 2013!

OPE Editor Steve Noe


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