Capitalizing on Sustainable Equipment Trends

By Michael J. Horak

Everywhere you look, sustainable landscaping equipment is gaining traction at a rapid rate. Traditional gas-powered companies are introducing new lines of electric products, and battery-propelled companies are expanding their existing product lines to meet commercial needs. There is more electric cutting equipment going into production than ever before, and at a greater scale with new advancements. Some companies are even turning to light and heat by adding solar panels on top of cutting units, which helps store energy while the equipment is in use.

There are several reasons why eco-friendly equipment continues to trend upwards. The first is the most influential: evolving consumer priorities. Homeowners are personally invested in the future of the environment and want their products to reflect that. Additionally, battery-powered products are much quieter, which is appealing to consumers on smaller lots who are conscious of their work-from-home neighbors.

Governmental regulations are also playing a key role. Ten years ago, the U.S. EPA put limits on exhaust and evaporative emissions in an effort to reduce the amount of air pollutants from gas-powered lawn equipment. More recently, other states and regions have taken steps to do the same. In California last fall, a bill was signed into law that will ban the sale of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, string trimmers and other small off-road engines as early as 2024. And in January of this year, the District of Columbia’s Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act took effect, prohibiting the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers in DC. As a result of regulations like these, we are seeing a strong push from institutions like schools and government agencies for commercial landscapers to make the transition to cleaner technology, and more equipment is being made with the end user in mind.

Bottom-line impacts

Those within the industry are starting to see the benefits of sustainable equipment as well. Autonomous mowers are gaining popularity due to lower emissions and reduced manual labor, which is especially important in light of recent labor shortages and high labor costs across the U.S. The noise of gas-powered equipment has become a limiting factor for some landscapers regarding the times and places they’re able to do business, and they’re recognizing the growth opportunities with electric tools.

More recently, manufacturers are embracing this trend, and we’re seeing an uptick in acquisitions of companies with battery-powered technology or manufacturing capabilities to produce battery-powered equipment.

Recent sales numbers prove these trends make a bottom-line impact for dealers. Electric-powered consumer and handheld lawn and garden equipment purchases have grown by double digits in the past few years, while in the same period, gas-powered devices often experienced flat or negative growth, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI); in 2020 alone, electric equipment purchases grew 20 percent, notes the Institute. Although the latest outdoor product shipment forecasts for 2021 are expected to be soft this year, double-digit growth is expected across almost all electric product categories, according to Wells Fargo projections.

Five key takeaways

So, what does this mean for OPE dealers? It’s an ideal time to refresh your inventory and reinvent your go-to-market approach. Here are a five key takeaways for any outdoor power equipment dealer looking to capitalize on sustainable product trends:

New audiences: With a broader selection of inventory than traditional gas-powered models, dealers can attract a wider range of consumers. Cultivating new buyers helps dealerships thrive.

Impactful branding: Promoting green products demonstrates innovation, leadership and sustainability. These are great attributes to put forward in your dealership brand; they resonate with consumers and set you apart from the competition.

Creative marketing: Getting the word out about new electric, battery and solar-powered options is key. Advertising, social media, video and sponsorships are all helpful to attract new buyers—and help past customers rethink their next purchase.

Flexible financing: While demand is strong (and growing rapidly) for eco-friendly products, their sales cycles can be longer than traditional models. Working with your bank on flexible floor plan financing, such as extended terms for green models, will help you accommodate all types of inventory.

Market leadership: Dealers who get into the eco-friendly market now stand to gain a smart competitive advantage. You can cement your reputation as an early adopter and quickly grow market share in this emerging segment.

Prepare for change

Michael J. Horak

Change is inevitable, and the best thing we can all do is prepare for that change. Adding eco-friendly products to your product roster will help ensure your customers view your business as innovative and environmentally conscious – and perhaps introduce a whole new audience to your dealership.

Michael J. Horak is commercial leader of the Outdoor Products Group for Wells Fargo Distribution Finance, which provides inventory financing solutions, service and intelligence through in-depth industry expertise and commitment to more than 30,000 dealers and over 1,200 distributors and manufacturers globally.  

This article first appeared in our March 2022 issue.

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