Viewpoint: Dealers weigh in on the state of the industry

This issue marks the eighth time that OPE magazine has conducted a state of the industry survey of the dealers in our readership. The survey results and related analysis (beginning on page 20) not only show the 2018 responses to questions about dealership metrics, but also comparative analysis with the results from prior surveys.

In addition to the 20-plus statistical questions in the survey, we also gave respondents the chance to share their thoughts about the state of the outdoor power equipment industry via an open-ended response box.

Many respondents chose not to supply a written response to the open-end question; and many who did write a response merely echoed the responses from the survey question about “biggest concern” (with multiple respondents stating that finding quality employees is difficult, profit margins are slim, or the weather impacted business this year). However, “biggest concern” responses aside, the following are some of the responses from survey respondents who opted to provide written feedback:

  • “With everybody having smart phone, you’re selling a mower, they look it up and say, ‘I found it cheaper online.’ It use to be, ‘Well, I can go to John Doe’s and get it cheaper.’ Now they do it while your trying to sell them a new mower.” – Boyd Turner, owner of B&D Mower, Crittenden, Ky.
  • “Once a big box retailer moves into an area, they quickly steal the most profitable parts of the independent dealer’s business. A smart businessperson can adapt; however, few manufacturers understand this and are willing to help the independent business survive.” – Anonymous
  • “It seems harder each year to stay in business. We have no control over pricing, cost, the weather, or what customers purchase from year to year. What sold last year does not mean they will purchase the next year.” – Putt Patten, Ellsworth Chainsaw Inc., Trenton, Maine.
  • “Not a great outlook for making money in this industry. Too much work for too little profit. Ask why so many dealers have disappeared over the last 25 to 30 years. It simply doesn’t pay. – Anonymous
  • “We started 39 years ago from the ground floor, and are steadily growing. We have three locations now, and the one thing that keeps us from any more expansion is obtaining qualified employees. Today, there is unfortunately no room for small mom-and-pop dealers. I feel bad about this, because that’s how we started. It is still mom-and-pop owned and operated, but a lot more modern technology. The small dealer cannot do enough business to stay alive in this industry. We face continuing increases in worker’s comp, liability insurance, delivery costs, and the increasing cost of whole goods. Those costs sometimes cannot be handed down to the customers. With the profit margin getting exceedingly smaller, then volume becomes the motive to remain operational. I’m proud of how far our company has come in 39 years, but if I had to start all over in today’s economy, I wouldn’t.” – Neil Adams, Neil’s Small Engine, Inc., Larose La.
  • “The way we go to market has certainly chained over the 25 years that we have been in business. It’s not necessarily bad, but just different. If you are not up to date with the latest trends, your days are numbered. If you run a top-notch, customer- and employee-focused business, you will do well over the next 5 years.” – Anonymous.


I realize that most of the feedback provided does not paint a positive outlook for the “state of the industry.” But the goal is to provide you and your fellow dealers the opportunity to have a voice and share those concerns. And even if you did not provide written feedback, my thanks go out to all those who responded to the survey questions. I hope that everyone who reads this issue finds value in the survey results, and is able to glean some insight into how you stack up against your industry peers. Have a great month, and I hope to see you in Louisville.




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