2019 OPE Dealer State of the Industry Report

By John Kmitta

To provide insight into the Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) industry, OPE magazine once again sought insight from dealers by conducting an in-depth national dealer survey during August 2019.

Through the years, the OPE Dealer State of the Industry surveys have asked nearly identical questions about dealership metrics, and the past four surveys (2019 included) have included additional questions about digital presence (website and social media). 

The pages that follow contain the 2019 survey results as part of comparative charts for direct analysis of how this year’s results stack up versus response totals to the same (or similar) questions from prior surveys. Although we can’t include comparative data for all of our previous surveys here, we are highlighting the results of the 2019 survey compared to data from 2001 (the first year we conducted our Dealer Survey), 2010, and the past several years. This collection of data should provide a solid snapshot of industry changes throughout the years.

The following are a few key areas of note, and other observations regarding the 2019 Dealer State of the Industry Survey results:

  • While the age of dealership owners remains high (with 66% of all respondents age 50 or over), the average is actually trending younger (in 2018, 76% of respondents were over the age of 50). 
  • Even more positive is that 19.35% of dealership owners who responded are age 39 or younger, which is the highest result we have received since 2001, and definitely signals a youth movement among owners.
  • Another positive is that 53.23% of respondents have expanded their dealership in the past 5 years, which continues the trend toward growth that we have seen in recent years. This trend is further reflected by the steadily decreasing number of dealers who have downsized in the past 5 years (only 8.06%).
  • This year’s survey shows that nearly 55% dealers who responded made an annual gross income of more than $1 million, which is slightly down from 2018 (58%) but still significantly higher than 2017 (46%). 
  • However, satisfaction with profit margins is down, as only 20.97% of all respondents labeled their satisfaction as either “Good” or “Very Good,” which is a decrease from 32% in 2018. And while the majority (46.77%) still label their satisfaction with profit margins as “Fair,” 32.26% labeled their satisfaction level as either “Poor” or “Very Poor” (which is an increase from approximately 20% each of the previous three years). 
  • Workforce numbers stayed fairly consistent, with more than 82% of dealerships employing fewer than 10 employees, and also more than 82% employing 4 or fewer service technicians.
  • Nationally, 87% of respondents now charge a shop labor rate of at least $65 per hour, with the highest percentage (16.13%) charging between $75 and $79.99 per hour. 
  • In terms of hourly pay for service technicians, almost half of the respondents (49.23%) said their starting service technicians make between $13 and $16.99 per hour. We also continue to see an increase in the number of respondents who said their starting service technicians make $17 per hour or more (26.15), which up from 16% in 2018 and only 8% in 2017.
  • The best service technicians are making at least $15 per hour (98.4%) with 52% making $21 per hour and up. Within that, 22% of respondents nationwide said their best service technicians now make $25 or more per hour.
  • And although our respondents are continuing to become digitally savvy (more than 95 percent of all respondents indicated that they use some form of social media), I find it interesting – especially in today’s competitive digital marketplace – that 19.35% of respondents indicated that they do not have a website, and 24.19% do not have a Facebook page.
  • Not surprisingly, most respondents (95%) feel there is a shortage of qualified service technicians in the OPE industry (a percentage that hasn’t wavered much throughout the years), and “Availability of quality employees” was the biggest concern for the fourth year in a row (32.26%). Other major concerns include “Cost of operating your business” (22.58%), and “Profit margin from sales” (also 22.58%).

I would like to thank all those who took time out of their busy schedules to take the 2019 OPE Dealer State of the Industry Survey, and I hope all dealers glean some interesting insight from the survey results that follow.

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