2016 Year in Review

Dealers share 2016 results and lessons learned, as well as strategic plans and outlooks for 2017

Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) recently asked dealers about how they’ve fared in 2016, how optimistic they are heading into 2017, and more. Specifically, we asked them the following questions:

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

OPE  received the following written responses from approximately 30 dealers on Sept. 19-26, 2016:

JEFF BRETON, OWNER
PRECISION OUTDOOR POWER EQUIPMENT
(RALEIGH, N.C.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

9, only because we can’t turn the work out fast enough.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Better scheduling.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

10. As I learn from 2016 mistakes, I’m sure we can make it better.

ANONYMOUS DEALER

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

5. We started out strong, but July and August have been very soft, bringing us back down more than we hoped. We are up YTD, but not like we thought we would be. Weather has been very good overall with only a 3-week dry spell when we normally have a 6- to 8-week dry spell. I think the election is playing in the buying process since mid-June more than I have seen since we have been in business (1988).

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

We will continue to build on our B2B business and partner with manufacturers that represent and support the dealer channels and not sell against us on the Internet. Our focus for the future is to grow our B2B business and the consumers that perceive value in service.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

8. We feel we are building a stronger B2B customer, which will allow us to continue to grow in 2017 and beyond. We are striving to enhance our customer service to provide Superior Customer Service at all times. We will eliminate some manufacturers in 2017 that don’t have policies in place to fully support the servicing dealer.

BO RODRIGUEZ, OWNER
BRIDGE CITY POWER EQUIPMENT
(BRIDGE CITY, LA.) (NEW ORLEANS AREA)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

8. All the rain we been having this season has really helped out with repairs. We’ve been having very wet weather this lawnmower season.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Nothing.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

5. The outdoor power equipment business is so weather related; it really depends on the weather. If we have a long, cold winter, we would have a late spring. This business is like a box of chocolates — you never know what is next.

ROB LEISER, PRESIDENT
LEISER RENTAL
(EASTON, PA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

3. This has been a very trying year. We have seen an upswing in customer requests; however, we have not been able to find the reliable staff to meet our customers’ needs.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

It is time to stop growing the business and work on changing the business into something that can be controlled by a less-reliable, less-educated staff. At 61, I can no longer keep up with the 70-hour weeks.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

We have a good business plan and can be assured that we can remain profitable. What concerns me are the monsters at the gate. The future does not look rosy for the small independent business. Government regulations and Obamacare have cost us the ability to provide health care. Manufacturers are turning away from supporting the dealer network and toward a throwaway society. The consolidation of the distributor network seems to be affecting the availability of parts. Looking forward at a workforce without simple skills or work ethic. Our industry is no longer a stepping-stone for the technical and automotive industries. Schools are not guiding students toward the blue-collar trades. I am 61. I have no children to take over or employees that are interested in purchasing my business. I may not retire at 65; however, the business will be something that I can padlock for a few weeks and take some time off.

BOB EAMES, OWNER
ACE HARDWARE #3142
(RICHMOND, CALIF.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

7. Business has been steady, but my partner and I are in our late 60s and are planning to hang it up and retire. None of our employees and none of our kids have any interest in the business (Dad, I see how hard you work. I don’t want to work that hard.), so we’re starting to liquidate.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

That I don’t want to wait till I’m really old to retire. In 2017, I’m going to travel and relax. Fortunately, I’m in a good financial condition and can do what I want.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

1. The business will no longer exist, barring a last-minute offer.

DAVID THOMPSON, CEO
THOMPSON TRUE VALUE HARDWARE
(MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

8. Started out with no winter, followed by a FANTASTIC spring and summer. No August slowdown for the shop because of timely rains.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

The economy is crap because of Obama. Pray Killery doesn’t get elected!

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

Tell you after the election.

CYNDI EBY, VICE PRESIDENT
MOUNTAIN ENTERPRISES
(DOVER, ARK.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

9. The products that we carry, as well as the reputation of our service department. You can have the best “marketing,” but if you can’t or don’t back it up with an outstanding, efficient, time-valued service center, as well as an intelligent and friendly counter staff, and a well-stocked parts department, you will eventually see the results.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

An adequate plan for whole goods as well as parts stocking, and ensuring your inventory maintains adequate throughout the year is crucial. At times, we feel we may have too much stock, but you can’t sell it, if you don’t have it. Also, make sure you can decrease your inventory wisely when the high points of the selling season are nearing an end. I see several suppliers that have advanced their “stock” schedule in order to replenish their capital. Make sure you don’t get caught up in all the offers they present. Make sure you keep an eye on your inventory and its age.

One thing I haven’t figured out yet, but think we all need to look at, is the area of online sales. It seems more and more parts warehouses are expanding their customer base to include anyone that operates a repair business. This is not supporting their local dealers, when the local dealers support them. Loyalty is a term that seems to be diminishing in our business.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

9. We are always looking for ways to increase our visibility. It is our jobs as the principle to go out and increase our business, which gives our employees a feeling of stability. We can’t wait for the customer to come to us; we have to go get them. We aren’t afraid to go get them. We did see a change last year in our commercial customer base, especially for our winter products such as chain saws. The market is always changing, so we need to be always changing. One thing I think we all need to look at is the online sales. I see a trend of the parts suppliers expanding their customer base to pretty much anybody that wants an account. This includes the “garage mechanics.” They need to find ways to “support” the local dealers as we support them.

M.B. McCRATE, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
TULSA NEW HOLLAND
(TULSA, OKLA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

8.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

No drastic changes for 2017.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

7. We are positioned well in our area to continue to grow our OPE equipment sales.

GUY CLARK, OWNER
CEDAR STREET SALES AND RENTAL
(BATAVIA, N.Y.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

7. It was a very light winter with virtually no snow, followed by the driest and hottest summer in history. Lawns have started growing again, and business followed suit.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

When the going gets tough, you need to be as lean as possible (without sacrificing customer service), but you also need to be incredibly creative to keep business flowing. Try new events and sales. We focused heavily on our rental business and on non-lawnmowing products such as UVs and compact tractors. You also need to be ready to hit it hard as soon as things green up again.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

10. We are just coming out of a historically dry year, and the odds are with us that this winter and next summer will be better.

DAVID POTTER, VICE PRESIDENT
LEE POWER EQUIPMENT
(LEESBURG, GA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

A solid 8. We have sold more commercial equipment than ever before, and the only reason we did not score a 10 was the lost sales due to insufficient finance options that allowed customers to leave empty handed.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Stock more large commercial mowers. Sometimes, it’s hard to sink $10,000 into one machine when you can fill your showroom with that much of an investment. I have learned that you can’t sell from an empty wagon.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

Lessons have been learned. We will have sufficient product next year, and, with some leasing options, we will achieve that 10.

MICHAEL HARRIS, OWNER
ACTION MOTORSPORTS
(MARION, IND.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

9. The sales were good again, slightly above last year’s busy pace because of good grass-growing weather most of the season except for a dry spell in mid-season, and because of the introduction of unique products at good price points.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

To ask [customers] more questions about the intended terrain that the mower would be primarily used on, so that I don’t allow them to purchase a ground-following deck if it will be beat up by mowing fields or ditches and make us both upset later.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

7. Great location, good products, less competition, but the weather remains the thief at the door that can negate any planning or skill.

CARL LYNCH, OWNER
CARL’S REPAIR
(CAREY, OHIO)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

6. Seems I have had some extra busy weeks that I don’t normally have. I haven’t checked the numbers compared to last year but just knowing how things have been going here.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Don’t do credit card sales over the phone. NO more.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

5. I have been informed by my insurance [that] costs are going to double at the first of the year. Being a single-guy shop, I can’t afford that. I am looking at places that are hiring and pay well and have insurance. I can do this for off hours.

TED STIPANOVICH, OWNER
MOORE’S HARDWARE
(PITTSBURGH, PA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

2. They have no time for the smaller dealers and our particular problems except for Toro whose area rep is just so good.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Never take big box work.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

Think market is going to crash!

HERB BECK, GM
BECK & SONS INC. (SINCE 1951)
(BEAVERCREEK, OHIO)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

10. The weather was good to us. No rain, no snow, no business. It is that simple.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Plan to do the same thing I have been doing. Pray every morning and give thanks to the Lord for what he has given me and my family.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why

10. Learned years ago, I am optimistic every day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not here yet. Lord willing, I will see tomorrow! He knows my future; he knows the path. I give my worries to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my rock and my refuge. If you do not understand this, it is because you do not know him. Seek him, and you will understand.

HARVEY HILL, OWNER
ABBOTTSTOWN REPAIR SHOP LLC
(HANOVER, PA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

8.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Service was good. Sales of new units were down, the higher-end units were the worst, parts were off as well. Will be bringing in lower-cost units for 2017.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

7. The economy is still not good, and after the election, it may get worse.

JASON McLEAN, PRESIDENT
McLEAN’S REPAIR SHOP
(GRAYLING, MICH.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

10. Just opened a separate building for power equipment sales/service from our main hardware store. Sales are way up, thanks to the expansion.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Organize!!! All the problems come from fast expansion and poor organization of most things.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

10. The new expansion is doing fantastic, and now that word is out, I expect further growth next year.

CHRIS FAMA, OWNER
SCAPERS OUTDOOR POWER EQUIPMENT
(GAINESVILLE, GA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

6.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Concentrate on more parts sales w/commercial accounts and sales w/new equipment.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

7. Not gonna lie to you, but it’s been a struggle being a newer outdoor power equipment dealer. We continue to give the best possible service to our customers, and we are hoping for the best. Good mechanics are hard to find. Biggest problem we come across is high schools do not teach the kids small-engine repair or automotive skills. It was taught when I was in high school, and I am still using that skill today. I also had a landscape business for 25 years and used that skill to keep our equipment in top notch. Kids need hands-on training because computers are great, but you still need to fix it by hand. Hope it changes…

VINCE MARIER, PRESIDENT
LINDSTROM WHEELHORSE
(LINDSTROM, MINN.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

8, similar to last year. Consumer Z riders are up 50 percent, and tractor riders are down. Commercial products are off from last year’s high mark. Plenty of moisture really helped add consumer sales of parts and service.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Advertising via mailings and inserts were effective, and print ads are getting less effective. Will need to go to more online advertising and website promotions as more customers use phones to gather information before purchase.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why

7. Optimism is tempered by the economy.

BOB RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT
GEORGE’S MOWER SERVICE
(RIVERVIEW, FLA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

7.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

As a business owner and manager, I’ve learned to assign certain jobs to certain people and follow up on them. Efficient task organization and accountability. That’s helped a lot, through our management changes and staff increases.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

9.

TIM STONE, PRESIDENT
STONE’S FARM SERVICE INC.
(GREENSBURG, IND.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

7. The wet weather was great for lawn equipment sales; L&G service was overwhelmed all season with backlogs too long. Ag sales were almost nonexistent with Ag service very strong.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Expand L&G service capabilities.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why

6. Commodity prices too low to stimulate sales.

TODD TAYLOR, DEALER PRINCIPAL
COUNTRY GARDENS
(ROXBORO, N.C.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

5. We were expecting growth, but it ended up being a down year as far as whole goods sales went. I think it is due to the local economy because a lot of business owners in the area have voiced the same problems. We couldn’t have asked for a better weather pattern for the year, so for once, we can’t blame it on the weather.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

New customers do not get special treatment for service even when you’re trying to earn their business. I plan to forecast sales better with orders and inventory, but we all know no matter what mix you order in, sales will go in the opposite direction.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

6. Customers are still flocking to box stores to buy inferior equipment no matter how much we market. We have a good customer base that continues to come to us, but we still lose a share of the market to those who would rather fight for service and buy parts online.

PUTT PATTEN, OWNER
ELLSWORTH CHAINSAW INC.
(TRENTON, MAINE)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

7. Mild winter leaving excessive snow inventory and light spring cleanup leaving excessive spring cleanup inventory. Dry summer that led to poor riding mower and zero-turn mower sales. The bright side is that handheld products and lawnmower sales were good.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

I am going to order what I want, not the numbers that my manufacturers want. To me, reorders seem better than getting a small discount and end up dumping it or having it left in inventory and paying interest on it. Try to be smarter.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

8-9. You have to hold your head up and be positive if you are going to make it in this business. If the weather is on our side, it should be a good year. It has to snow and rain sometime; can’t have two bad weather years in a row.

RODGER RANKIN, OWNER/OPERATOR
RANKIN SALES AND SERVICE
(OGALLALA, NEB.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

8. Commodity prices have hurt our local customers both in the Farm, Ranch Sector.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Maintain a better idea of stocking with respect to customers’ needs.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

7. Worried about the election and the prices of commodities headed forward.

MICHAEL ROACH, OWNER
ROCKIN R SMALL ENGINE
(PIEDMONT, OKLA.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

7. I’m still a new business. Some word of mouth and Internet presence have helped.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

I need faster turn times. Might need to do more hours.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

8. I am a one-man show. Can’t afford to hire help, especially at $15 to $20 an hour.

DAVID T. RATTIN, OWNER
THE OLDE SAW SHOP
(KANKAKEE, ILL.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

9 due to word of mouth and good advertisement. And a lot of hard work. Also helping older people with things out of the ordinary. Today, a lady brought a chain saw in because she said she was told this is the place to take it.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

The greatest lesson is calling a customer as soon as the job is done. This will be our goal for 2017.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

9 because of our work and honesty to our customers; just need to find qualified part-time help.

GEORGIA GALLANT, OWNER
GALLANT AND SON
(ADRIAN, MICH.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

7. Down due to lack of snow and rain.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Pray for snow.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

7. Weather.

RAY, PRESIDENT
BLACKMOUNT EQUIPMENT INC.
(NORTH HAVERHILL, N.H.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

5.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

[No response provided.]

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

7. Hope to sell or transfer.

ANONYMOUS DEALER
(WOODLAKE, CALIF.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

3/10. Repairs have been strong, but sales are down, mainly due to the drought conditions. Cost of doing business keeps going up. Between federal and state mandates for health care, minimum wage laws, air resources board, overtime laws and EPA water, how am I supposed to stay in business?

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Should have supported higher ethanol fuel blends to increase repair business.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

4/10. Not very optimistic at all. Will probably have to cut back on mechanics, which will increase wait times for repairs.

LEE SLUGA, OWNER
SLUGA’S SAW SHOP
(SALAMANCA, N.Y.)

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how has your dealership fared in 2016, and why?

I guess a 6. The mid-summer dry period slowed things down quite a bit. Fewer belt and blades sales for lawn mowers.

2) What valuable lessons did you learn during 2016, and what do you plan to do differently in 2017?

Plan on a dead spell…keep inventory to what moves.

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how optimistic are you about your dealership heading into 2017, and why?

I’m hoping for the best. Just try to tweak inventory to our needs. Hopefully, 2017 will start out with a bang in the spring with things growing like crazy.

 

Advertisement