Dealers’ Domain

Question: How was business in 2013, and what is your outlook for 2014?

After a slow start to 2013 due to lack of snow, we had a great remainder of the year. It rained when it needed to rain from spring to fall. Weather trumps everything for us. We also had some early snow in November, and it hasn’t stopped yet. We will sell out of snow blowers for the first time in quite a few years.
2014 has started out good with snow blower sales, but people are chomping at the bit for spring. We need to be ready to hit the ground running as soon as it warms up, and we are. There is a lot of pent-up demand to get out in their yards, so early sales will be strong. As long as the weather is in our favor, I expect 2014 to be a very good year. Let’s hope for an early spring.
— Guy Clark, owner
Cedar Street Sales and Rental
Batavia, N.Y.

Total revenue was about the same as last year. Costs of doing business have risen, so margins are tighter. Looking for other sources of income due to seasonal weather in this area.
— Larry Comer, owner
KC Mower Shop
Casey, Ill.

2013 was somewhat above average… However, 2014 could depend greatly on the timing of spring.
Doesn’t look promising at this time!
— Ernest Butitta, president
Baton Rouge, La.

Business was slower this year than the last 10 years. Down 25 percent.
— Walt Glista, owner
Walt’s Power Equipment Repair
Columbia, Conn.

Business income was up 9 percent over 2012. The forecast/goal for 2014 is 12 percent based on the current moisture projections.
— Tim Curless, president
Ruim Equipment Co.
Lowell, Ind.

2013 was my best year ever. I hope this year is as good or better.
— Allen Cutter, owner
Cutter’s Mower Repair
Rising Sun, Ind.

Business was great in 2013 not because of anything we did, but what the Lord did for us. We had rain every week, a lot of sunshine, very little hot humid days from March through November, and a lot of snow early. The weather does more for our business sales, service and parts than any promotions I can do.
2014: If the weather is going to be like last year, it will be another great year. If it stops raining and is dry till September, then it will not be a great year.
— Herb Beck, VP sales/general manager
Wm. Beck & Sons Inc. (since 1951)
Beavercreek, Ohio

2013 was great for us as we were getting enough rain to bring us out of drought conditions. 2014 looks to be starting off very wet, and that directly relates to lawn equipment sales. Our economy in Texas is very good, and if the rain continues, we expect better sales than 2013.
— “Ozzie” Osborne, president
D&W Lawn Equipment
La Marque, Texas

Sales were down overall in 2013. Service was up; folks are getting things fixed rather than buying new to get some more life from their equipment. I expect sales and service to be slightly better.
— Les Benedict, president/CEO
Ehsa Outdoor Power Products
Hogansburg, N.Y.

Our sales were up 40 percent in lawn, garden and forestry. I believe we will be up 30 percent in 2014 because many of my commercial customers made significant purchases in 2013. However, we added LS Tractors in the fourth quarter, and I expect additional increases from them.
— Michael Tedder, owner
Tedder Outdoor Power Equipment
Hot Springs, Ark.

Our business was up for 2013, and we are looking for a great 2014. After the winter that we are having, people will be ready to get out in their yards, and that should be good for business. We also have some great new offerings that should be great sellers.
— Ralph Miller, owner
Ralph’s Small Engine, LLC
Elkville, Ill.

Overall, better than the previous year. Spring started off great, a little dry in June, but picked back up to finish out the season strong. Winter has been slower than normal due to our area actually having a winter season this year.
— Jack Pryor, owner
J&J Lawnmower Repair
Silsbee, Texas

2013 was off on equipment sales; over-counter sales were pretty good. Repairs were off; seems like more owners repairing their own equipment. As usual, weather was a factor. 2014 has started off pretty slow. I’m hoping this is not a sign. I’m looking for a good spring, hoping sales will be up enough to carry through the summer.
— Tony Nation, owner
Nation’s Small Engine, Inc.
Hot Springs, Ark.

Business in 2013 was fair. If we get rain, 2014 will be better.
Larry Bosma, president
Harry’s Motor Ltd.
Sanborn, Iowa

Grand total sales (all products, parts and service included) were up 12.3 percent vs. 2012. Garden equipment sales were up 15.7 percent (whole goods only).
D. John Adams, president
Coeur d’Alene Tractor Co.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

The first quarter was horrible as we had little snow in January and February, but April hit with a big bang and we were off to better sales in ZTRs, tillers and lawn tractors. We finished the year with about a 7-percent increase in sales. 2014 looks like we’ll still grow as we shift orders to vendors whose programs are geared to help grow sales and improve real margin. We are tired of selling brands that don’t provide a sustainable profit even though they may be very well known.
— Tom Shattuck, vice president
Devon Lane Power Equipment
Belchertown, Mass.

Rebounding from a very dry 2011 and low profit in 2012 due to having to liquidate overstock left from 2011, we were pleased that 2013 came with a reasonable amount of moisture and sales to be a “break-even” year. We did downsize our work force and dropped a line to get more competitive. We feel that 2014 should be a better year, and hope to pay off some debt incurred in 2011 and 2012.
— Randy Laster, owner
Laster Outdoor Power Equipment
Nacogdoches, Texas

Business was good in 2013. We are mostly farming, and farmers are doing well, so that means we do well. I expect 2014 to be as good, but after that, don’t know.
— Gene Shook, owner
Gene’s Lawn and Garden
Guthrie Center, Iowa

Business was way off. I sell high-end power equipment that today the middle class can no longer afford, and 2014 does not look good to me.
— Paul Burkheimer, owner
Burkheimer Equipment
Aberdeen, Md.

Business was very good last year. I am hoping it will be as good this year.
— Larry Sauer, owner
Larry’s Small Engine Repair
Lake Mills, Wis.

I am very grateful 2013 was a very good year for us. We saw growth in heavy equipment repair. Two-cycle sales and service increased. Mower sales were good, and parts sales were up. I have begun hiring again, and I feel 2014 has all the signs of being a great year.
— Matthew Borden, vice president
Ed & Matt Equipment
Greenville, R.I.

The commercial mower sales were up from 2012, and I feel that they will be better this year, partly because of the winter income. The residential business has been flat, but I look for a better year in 2014.
— Allan Jones, sales manager
Knoxland Equipment
Warner, N.H.

Better, more walk-in patrons and more customer sales for DIY customers.
— Gary Corder, owner
Gary’s Small Engine Repair
Winchester, Va.

Considering the slow start (June), it turned out good, so now if we have a normal spring, I will have a much higher expectation for 2014.
— Douglas Miner, owner
Miner’s Outdoor & Rec
Blooming Prairie, Minn.

2013 was a banner year for us. We contribute this to the rainfall that was above average during spring, summer and even into the fall months. I think spring will start out strong because of the moisture we’ve accumulated with the unusual weather in the Southeast (ice, snow and rain). As far as the year overall, I feel the economy will play a huge part in year-end numbers.
— Billy Still, owner
Billy’s Lawn and Garden
Bamberg, S.C.

Even though we had a lot of rain, the repair work and sales were off. Usually, we do about 2,000 repairs a year; last year, only 1,600. My sales were off about $50,000, but I did make more money! According to my salesman, the season in my area was spotty; some dealers’ sales were up, but then again, that’s from a salesman, and what else would he say? I feel that the sales end of the business will continue to go down. One, the economy — at least here — is not good, and we only sell high quality. Two, again the old story of the box store with more and more name brands going, the perception is that they are cheaper. I’ve had customers in the store and was told that their mower was no good, and they say that they would go buy a new one at the box store and walk around my mowers going out the door. Third, the commercial cutter, if they only do 50 lawns, that’s at least 50 people that won`t buy a new mower and quite a few that won`t get one fixed. Fourth, they are making mowers faster and better. It now takes the customer less time to mow, meaning less hours on the equipment, making them last longer. I feel that the service business will always be there. We have not had a new mower business in my area in many years, and that one closed after 2 years. My business was started by my dad in 1947, so we just struggle on and on and on.
— Charles Saul, owner
Saul’s Lawnmower
Pilesgrove, N.J.

2013 was a little better than expected. Our sales were slightly ahead of 2012. Considering we had a summer drought again and the main highway in front of my business was completely torn up from June 1 until Thanksgiving, I feel fortunate that we did as well as we did. If the weather holds, I am looking forward to 2014 being a good year.
— Norm’s Small Engines and Sports
Richland Center, Wis.

Sales-wise, 2013 was a great year. Most everything was up, except our handheld line as the hardware store in town picked up that line. The problem we had was we had to pay some carryover expenses from 2012, so the drought from 2012 is still affecting us. For 2014, we are looking at a massive snow pile of about 10-feet tall and wondering if some of it will be there on the Fourth of July. We still expect to be hurt by the competition across town on the handheld, but we are in a good position on mowers and took a gamble with some different inventory. Crossing our fingers and toes for 2014.
— Todd Biddinger, manager
T&T Outdoor Power & Rental
Rochester, Ind.

Up slightly from 2012 and appears to be significantly better in 2014, despite a declining labor force in Wausau, Wis. Significant to note that our demographic is the upper 25 percent of the incomes here. Our margins have been stable to rising, which is our effective measure when volume is generally declining. This is due to internal efficiencies and equipment choices, as well as selectivity as to real client value vs. volume.
— Paul Jones, president
Wausau, Wis.

2013 was an excellent year, and we experienced growth in all functions of our business. All factors indicate a promising 2014, but the biggest wild card at this point is the weather. So the outlook is about 10-percent up if the weather provides the proper amount of rain.
— Chad Trueman, president
PenTex Equipment
Spring, Texas

Our business in 2013 was much improved from the year before, mostly because we had rain. Mower sales were strong, and profits were solid. The downside of 2013 included higher-than-normal back orders, slower fill rates, and unexpected engine failures within one of the brands that we sell.
Even though 2014 started off with a drunk driver making one of our storage buildings into a “drive thru,” damaging inventory stored inside in the process, we had one of our best Januarys ever. One month is not enough to make a trend, and so far, February has sagged a little.
However, if this deep freeze finally ends, I am optimistic that we will have a solid 2014 sales year. We are already seeing signs of early shopping. With the spike in propane prices, pellet stoves and pellet sales should remain strong into summer. We have had early sales on our boats and outboard motors already, and the outlook for zero-turn mowers is optimistic.
If we get the weather, and our economy doesn’t take a severe hit, I expect 2014 to be slightly better than last year.
— Roger Zerkle, owner
Zerkle Diversified Ent. LLC
Flat Rock, Ill.

Light winter with a strong spring and summer. Had a decent fall and a weak winter until January of 2014. Snow finally came to northern Ohio. Fortunately, we service many big box stores, which has maintained our stability. Economy is still weak in our area, but feel customers will repair more vs. buying major new equipment.
— Dick Egy, owner
Egy’s Mower & Chainsaw Service
Elyria, Ohio

I don’t know how to really answer the question. 2013 was a late bloomer in some ways, receiving that late snow on March 24, and really cool temps prevailing all of that month made for another challenging selling season that was also shortened by high heat and dry weather the first week of July and lasting the whole month till the rains started with regularity at the first of August. The weather highs and lows were also the barometer for our sales, as far as being a successful season. I would say we were above average, but that’s not saying a terrible lot in such a down market. As I like to tell my fellow dealers when asked this question by simply stating, “Well, it’s not what it could have been, and it’s not what it could have been.” As for next year, if I could tell you what it’s going to be like with any certainty, I would have the winning lottery ticket in my hands, and we wouldn’t have this conversation.”
— Dennis Timbrook, owner
Nevada Small Engine Repair Kawasaki
Nevada, Mo.

In 2013, we were profitable. The overhead continues to increase while profit margins stay the same or drop some. The winter months are just not producing enough sales to propel us into spring ahead of the game.
2014 will probably be very busy for spring rush. The main issue is still overhead, such as health care and taxes.
If we figure out an answer, we’ll let you know.
— Brent Hollopeter, president
Medina Tractor Sales Co.
Medina, Ohio

Business in 2013 was flat. It seems like more product was sold, but for less profit. Good deal for the manufacturers, but harder on the dealers. Depending on the weather, 2014 should bring more consumers as they grow more confident that the economy is truly recovering.
— Harry Miller, president
Blair Auto Service & Power Equipment
Duncansville, Pa.

Business was flat with only a very slight increase in 2013. I always stay positive and think that 2014 will be better. I have tried everything possible to cut cost and will be raising labor rates this spring. I always like to read OPE magazine for articles and advice even though I’ve been in this business for over 35 years.
— Sally Miller, president
Dobosh Center
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Hodgson’s is a family-owned and operated business since 1958 with one business location, employing 9-12 employees depending upon season. Hodgson’s started selling lawn & garden equipment in the early ‘70s from Simplicity to Bolens and Troy-Bilt to present Ariens, Cub Cadet, Stihl and Yanmar.
Business in 2013 started out slow due to the lack of snow. Too many temperature swings from snow to rain, not good to sell snow blowers! Spring and summer treated us well. We didn’t get a dry spell, so our season extended itself. Our fall and pre-season with snow blowers kicked off decent, not the banner season we’ve seen on other years although. Overall, we couldn’t complain; it kept the bills off the desk!
Our outlook for 2014 I think will be good, if we don’t get a dry spell in the summer to slow sales down. We need a little rain to keep grass growing! I feel the fall should be good for pre-season of snow blowers, seeing that we got a pretty good start with snow for 2014.
We will also have a few new products that should spark consumers’ attention this year. Stay tuned.
— Tim Pierce, president/owner
Hodgson Pool Sales, Inc.
Elma, N.Y.

Business was down approximately 11.5 percent. We expect a moderate 5- to 6-percent rebound in 2014, if we get rain. 😉
— Paul Lasiter, general manager
Mason’s Saw and Lawnmower Service, Inc.
El Cajon, Calif.

2013 was another challenging year in the Power Equipment industry in California. As many know, we are in a severe drought in the West, and 2013 was the driest recorded year ever.
Despite this, we continued to see growth in many segments of our business. Our goal is to continue to diversify to take advantage of all the opportunities possible.
The commercial market has continued to grow for us with commercial mower sales staying strong. We saw large growth due to the introduction of more productive walk-behind mowers such as the new 30-inch walk-behind from Exmark. Our commercial customers see little opportunity to raise their prices and in effect are continuing to look to equipment to increase their productivity and efficiency. As competition grows, we continue to focus on the relationships we build with our customers and becoming more of a partner with them in helping them to reach their maximum efficiency.
Looking forward to 2014, we expect much of the same. Rather than become negative over the start of another dry year, we are continuing to have a positive outlook for the future. 2014 will be our 30th year in business, and we know that the tough times help to bring about new innovations and ideas. We continue to focus on helping our customers be successful at their businesses and continue to expand our product offerings to meet all their needs.
We recently opened a full garden nursery adjacent to our Power Equipment store to again create a one-stop shop to offer as many products as possible to our gardeners. We are expanding our marketing efforts outside of our local area and expanding our website to offer more efficient parts ordering and services to our customers. As an industry, we need to continue to work together to create a strong future focused on service and the commitment to each other to maintain business practices that will allow us as an industry to thrive in the future.
Seth Brown, sales manager
California Turf Equipment & Supply
Tulare, Calif.


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