By Steve Noe
Happy New Year! I hope you were able to spend quality time with your family and friends to celebrate the holidays, as well as recharge your “battery” by getting some well-deserved rest and relaxation. As you enter the New Year, I also hope you share my optimism.
Following are 10 reasons, listed in no particular order, that I’m upbeat about our industry heading into 2015:
- GIE+EXPO 2014 was a huge success. The 2014 Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO) was the biggest ever with a footprint of more than 1.3-million square feet (nearly 30 acres and the size of 27 football fields), and the show drew more than 19,000 people, an 11-percent increase in registration over the previous year. Dealers made an especially strong showing with registrations for all paid dealer education up 35 percent. The show’s 675 indoor exhibits represented a 6-percent increase over 2013 and 13 percent over 2012. With 181 new exhibitors, it was the largest GIE+EXPO since the Green Industry Expo (GIE) and the International Lawn, Garden and Power Equipment Expo (EXPO) merged in 2007. And with picture-perfect weather in the 19-acre Outdoor Demonstration area, attendees got the chance to enjoy hands-on experience from about 100 exhibitors, including new utility vehicle (UTV) test tracks. Show Director Warren Sellers said, “We can already see that we will sell out in the demo area next year.” Several exhibitors who declined the opportunity for outdoor booths this year because of cold weather in 2013 have already requested outdoor space in the demo park, and Sellers is seeing growing interest from suppliers of UTVs and UTV accessories.
- Exciting new products. At GIE+EXPO 2014, I saw plenty of great new products on display, with many of them featured in our “GIE+EXPO 2014 Show Recap” in the November and December 2014 issues of OPE, as well as in the “Equipment Focus” and “Product News” sections in this issue. Expect to see continued new product coverage in the coming months in OPE and online at outdoorpowerequipment.com.
- Oil (gas) prices are dropping. Gas prices were hovering around $2.50 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline in the Chicago area in late December. That means consumers will have more disposable income to spend on other things such as their yards and outdoor power equipment.
- Economy is improving. The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) recently said that it expects the overall U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), to expand by 3.1 percent in 2015, representing the strongest GDP growth since 2005 when the economy grew 3.3 percent. The growth is fueled by a stronger job market and falling oil prices.
- Interest rates remain low. At presstime, interest rates remained low. There is some speculation they could be increased soon, but by how much would be anyone’s guess.
- Consumer sentiment is up. Consumer sentiment rose to 93.8, as measured by Thomson Reuters and University of Michigan’s report, based on a preliminary reading for December 2014. November’s final reading was 88.8. This is the highest the index has been since January 2007, when it was 96.9.
- Housing market is starting to rebound. U.S. housing starts and permits fell in November 2014, but the housing market is expected to continue to bounce back.
- Weather. We’ve had a very mild winter in Chicago with very little snow, but as a lifelong Chicagoan, I know that could change at any minute. Besides, spring will be here before you know it.
- Industry growth. The OPE industry is expected to grow 3 to 4 percent in 2015, according to the latest forecast prepared for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).
- Industry leaders are upbeat. We recently surveyed approximately 20 of the OPE industry’s most well-respected leaders about the state of the industry heading into 2015, and nearly all of them shared a sense of optimism. For more specifics, please see the first of our annual two-part “Industry Forecasts” series in this issue of OPE on pages 10-18.
What is your outlook for the New Year? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about our industry for 2015? I would enjoy hearing your perspective, so please drop me an e-mail at email@example.com. Here’s hoping you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!
OPE Editor Steve Noe