Upfront: Dealers cautiously optimistic about 2017

By Steve Noe

As you may recall, last month we at Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) shared the results of our extensive 27-question, nationwide dealer survey on a variety of general business topics, ranging from hourly shop labor and technician pay rates to annual gross income and social media use.

In this issue of OPE, we took the pulse of dealers on the current state of affairs by conducting a Q&A September 19-26. Specifically, we asked dealers how they’ve fared in 2016 and how optimistic they are about 2017. We also asked them about what lessons they’ve learned in 2016 and what they plan to do differently in 2017. I would like to personally thank the approximately 30 dealers who took time out of their undoubtedly busy schedules to participate in the Q&A and share their insights.

And I am happy to report that those dealers are slightly more optimistic about 2017 than they are about how they’ve fared this year. When we asked dealers on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how they had fared in 2016, they responded with an average rating of 6.97. When asked to rate their level of optimism heading into 2017, they responded with an average rating of 7.38, although four dealers did not give a rating.

I don’t want to steal the thunder of any individuals who participated in the Q&A, as you can read their responses in the cover story of this issue on pages 16-23. However, I do want to draw a few conclusions after reading their responses. One thing clearly weighing on the minds of many dealers is the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Dealers not only expressed their personal concerns about the election and its potential fallout for 2017, but also the concerns of their customers. I suspect that is why we had a few dealers reluctant to rate their level of optimism for 2017 or at least temper their enthusiasm. I think it’s safe to assume that if we asked the same questions of the same approximately 30 dealers after the election, their sense of optimism would be heavily influenced one way or the other depending on their political views. As always, the weather — favorable or unfavorable — factored into the responses of nearly every dealer. Dealers also expressed many disappointments from their perceived lack of loyalty from the manufacturers to the inability to find family members or employees willing to follow in their footsteps and take over the business.

I really enjoyed reading the responses from all of the participating dealers, and if you didn’t participate, I would still like to hear from you. Please feel free to send me your responses to the cover story questions via e-mail at snoe@epgmediallc.com. I hope to hear from many more of you, and I wish you and your family a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

OPE Senior Editor Steve Noe