Anonymous Distributor

Lithium power is not going away, it is expanding. If you attended last year’s GIE+EXPO in Louisville, Ky., you might have noticed there is more than one lithium product line out there. I heard there were more than 20 exhibitors with lithium powered products. If you haven’t thought of selling lithium power, you may want to start sooner than later. 

A.D. is here to help. I want to walk you through some of the thought processes you should consider selecting the right lithium product line or lines. (Disclaimer: If you select one and don’t do well, I cannot be held accountable for the choice YOU made. If you choose one and do well, all credit can be sent my way!) 

Several industry experts say that lithium will take the place of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment. I am far from an industry expert, but I tend to agree. With all the talk about going green, it’s a matter of time before you won’t have much say in what’s offered with gas. If this and future administrations continue to fight against green, it might prolong the inevitable.

My first suggestion is to look at what brand you already sell. For example, if you are a Stihl or Echo dealer, you most likely have access to their lithium products. Does that mean you should automatically carry them? Not necessarily. There needs to be some due diligence on your part. What if the brand you carry only has a few items from which to choose? In that case, you may want to see what else is out there before you decide.

Some of the independent names having success are Makita, DeWalt, Greenworks, and Ego. Most of the brands you’ll look at sell to mass retailers, but the good companies will enforce MAP pricing. You want one that’s reputable and will enforce MAP. If not, you might end up constantly calling your distributor to ask why a product sold at Home Depot is dropping the price and why can’t you? You can still survive with that arrangement, but it will wear you out after a while. (Someday we will talk about loyalty, but not today.)

Another key feature to look for is what the battery fits? For example, some manufacturers have more than 200 products – from hand tools to outdoor power equipment – all on the same battery platform. That will save your customer the cost of buying additional batteries. But A.D. looks at it differently. The more product they have, the more batteries you CAN sell. Nevertheless, the important takeaway from this is that no changes in battery shape and size will equate to happy customers.

Don’t be fooled by only volts. The popular battery sizes are 18v, 36v, 56v, and 80v. You should pay closer attention to watts. To figure watts, you multiply amps x voltage. So if you are using a 36v, 5.0 amp hour battery, you have 180 watts. That would use 1 watt for 180 hours or 180 watts for 1 hour. Charge time is another point to watch for. Most lithium batteries used in our industry take 30-60 minutes to charge (depending on Ah). The higher the amp hour (Ah), the more costly the products become.

Speaking of cost, a higher-priced product is not a bad thing. A higher price usually means higher quality (most of the time) and that usually means more dollar bills in your pocket. A good brand name is worth something to your customers. Don’t be afraid to investigate the higher-priced units. Usually warranties are pretty good with the higher-quality units.

And finally, product selection. We had a current vendor say they were about ready to launch their lithium platform. When I asked what they were going to offer, they said a chain saw, string trimmer, hedge trimmer, and a handheld blower. That was last year. This year they said they were about the launch, and I asked what the products would be. Same answer as last year. Having a good breadth of products is the only way to go. There are chain saws, string trimmers, push mowers, self-propelled mowers, snowblowers, backpack blowers, handheld blowers, ice augers, and one company offers a lithium power-assist wheelbarrow. If the company you are looking at doesn’t offer more than the basic blower, trimmer, hedge trimmer, and chain saw, you may want to continue your search. It’s like they say, you are either pregnant or not pregnant. In this case, you are either in the lithium business, or you are not in the lithium business.

Good luck with your selection. With all the choices currently being offered, I am sure you will find one that suits your customer base and will help you grow your business. As always, keep your mind and blades sharp. You can contact me by e-mail using OPEMAGAD@gmail.com  or tweet me using @OPEMAGAD.

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