Landscape and Irrigation magazine recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers and suppliers to share their insights about the equipment market, and how the trends they are seeing will impact your equipment decisions. Their observations are as follows:


 


L&I: What trends are you seeing with regard to equipment for the professional landscape and lawn care markets?


Companies are looking to get more production from smaller machines, especially with Tier 4 regulations making larger engines more expensive. Fuel efficiency is also on their minds, and that has people looking more at the overall production capability of a machine as opposed to just how much horsepower it has.


— Jason Morey, Bandit Industries small equipment sales manager


 


I believe that energy technology continues to improve drastically each year in all related markets. So the natural progression for the professional OPE market will tend to follow the technology curve, which means you will see more and more professionals using less gas powered product and more alternatively powered equipment.


— Lincoln Jore, president of CORE Outdoor Power


 


The industry trend has been to address the need for productivity through product speed and reliability. We also focus on identifying smart, intuitive solutions to problems like difficult terrain and hills.


— Allen L. Baird, product marketing manager, Cub Cadet


 


Landscape and lawn care professionals and business owners continue to demand quality equipment that meets the extreme workloads that landscape and lawn care can put it under. More efficient designs with less cost of maintenance still drive the development of new products. With new technologies and materials being developed every day, I think continued growth can be expected industrywide.


— Kurt Kainz, marketing manager & direct sales, Echo Bear Cat


 


Creative engineering and advancements in material science are ongoing. Manufacturers understand that professional landscapers are looking for lightweight, durable, high-performance products at a reasonable price.


— Joe Fahey, vice president, product planning, Echo Incorporated


 


Equipment Trends 2011: User Survey

While equipment manufacturers and suppliers weighed in on trends that are shaping the industry, equipment users provided us with feedback about their equipment decisions in 2012 and going forward. The results are as follows:


What equipment do you plan to purchase during the next 6 months? (check all that apply)

Blowers           49%
String trimmers           46%
Work trucks    37%
Hedge trimmers          32%
Spray equipment (or other chemical application equipment)  32%
Commercial walk-behind mowers      28%
Commercial zero-turn mowers            25%
Edgers 21%
Chain saws      18%
Turf aerators    14%
Snow and ice management equipment           12%
Stand-on mowers        12%
Utility vehicles            11%
Trenchers         9%
Propane-powered mowers      7%
Loaders           7%
Excavators      7%

During 2012, how have you approached your equipment needs? (check all that apply)

Purchased new equipment this year to fill specific needs      55%
Used only the equipment from our existing fleet       36%
Rented equipment this year to fill specific needs       28%
Purchased used equipment this year to fill specific needs      12%

 


During the next six months, which of the following would you be most likely to do should a specific need arise?

Purchase new equipment        38%
Purchase replacement parts for existing equipment    38%
Rent equipment           17%
Purchase used equipment        7%

 


When purchasing new equipment, which of the following factors is most important to you?

Serviceability/support 34%
Product specifications and features    31%
Brand  21%
Price    14%The trend away from getting the lowest price for equipment will continue, as operators look for longevity, comfort and multi-use productivity for better return on investment and healthier bottom lines.


Sustainable lawn care practices will also continue to trend for the remainder of the year and in years to come. Reducing fuel consumption to control costs and limit impact on the environment from emissions are of primary concern.


— Stan Guyer, president, The Grasshopper Company


 


* More LSC are purchasing larger-deck zero-turns.


* Increased interest in larger engine sizes.


* Sales: early demand and also a late spring surge.


* Consolidating vendors and machines to one source.


— Bill Engler, director sales LSC and industrial, Ariens Company (Gravely)


 


Overall, professional users are placing more and more value on comfort and durability in the products that they use.


— Jeff Dewosky, vice president of dealer sales for Husqvarna


 


Today’s turf and landscape professionals value options and are looking for equipment that will not only meet their specific needs on the job, but also provide a financial solution – either cost savings through fuel consumption or through purchasing incentives.


— Christine Chapman, assistant product manager, Kubota


 


Lawn care professionals continue to want high-quality products and prefer to purchase from independent local dealers who provide exceptional service after the sale. We see a trend of lawn care professionals wanting to do more with what they already have.


— Darren Stoltenberg, field sales manager, PK Products


 


I see manufacturing companies become more diverse and expanding into the landscape and agriculture industries.


— Paul Hollis, executive vice president, Redexim North America


 


The key trends in terms of design and manufacturing are in reduced emissions, vibration and noise and increased fuel efficiency, as well as improving overall ergonomics and power-to-weight ratios, particularly important for professional users using the equipment all day. Also of importance are features that make operation easier, more convenient and time efficient.


— Marv Mathwig, product manager for power tools, Stihl Inc.


 


Contractors are always looking for ways to cut expenses and increase profits. Today, a large expense is fuel, so contractors have to find ways to cut those costs or pass them along to their customers. Mowers that utilize electronic fuel injection (EFI) and other fuel-saving technologies will help reduce those operating costs.


— Chris Hannan, marketing manager at Toro


 


Productivity is key when it comes to new equipment designs. Today’s landscapers, winter maintenance contractors and lawn maintenance professionals are smart, and they’re demanding equipment that can save time and work accurately. Plus, reliability is a more important factor than ever, since breakdowns can be very costly. Basically, it all comes down to making more money — the most productive equipment on the market will help maximize profits, while other products may waste money through inefficiency and maintenance.


— James Truan, vice president of sales and marketing for TrynEx International


 


Equipment-wise, what is trending is simpler, cheaper, and more productive. The feedback we are receiving from our customers is that they want efficient, easy-to-use equipment at a cost-effective price.


— Jon Kuyers, global product manager, underground, Vermeer Corporation


 


We continue to hear companies talk about alternative fuels, but we believe an alternative fuel delivery method (EFI) is a much more reasonable conversation. EFI engines offer at least a 25-percent fuel savings along with being much more environmentally friendly. Remember carbureted engines in cars? Remember smog in the ‘70s and ‘80s? What changed? EFI was introduced into car engines, and the improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions were substantial. This same technology is available for mowers today.


— Tim Cromley, marketing manager, Walker Manufacturing Company


 


 


L&I: Has the unusually mild winter in most areas of the U.S. impacted equipment sales? If so, how?


 


Normally a mild winter puts a dent into our sales, but this year has been just the opposite. The East Coast hurricane last fall followed by the big New England blizzard has kept tree companies busy, and they’ve been keeping us very busy trying to meet their demand for new equipment.


— Jason Morey, Bandit Industries small equipment sales manager.


 


There is no question that the mild winter has impacted equipment sales for both winter and spring/summer products. With a shorter winter, I presume that the OPE market suffered a setback in sales of winter-specific products, such as snow blowers, etc. Spring-related outdoor power equipment sales are directly related to the length of the growing season, so I’m positive that the overall sales for that category have increased when compared to a shorter growing season. I’m not sure if the offset is enough to equalize the overall market, but my guess is that equipment sales will end up higher for 2012 because of the mild winter.


— Lincoln Jore, president of CORE Outdoor Power


 


Anytime spring breaks early, we see stronger sales, driven both by the grass beginning to grow sooner and by consumers launching into a spring mindset earlier.


— Allen L. Baird, product marketing manager, Cub Cadet


 


The lack of snow pack and mild temperatures in many parts of the country allowed consumers and business owners alike to work later into the fall period and start earlier in the spring, if not the entire winter season. It definitely helped provide a consistent sales flow in the retail and rental markets.


— Kurt Kainz, marketing manager & direct sales, Echo Bear Cat


 


When you are in a weather-impacted business you are always dealing with “good news/bad news” and this is no different. The mild winter limited the seasonal cash flow, which typically negatively impacts spring purchases. However, the early spring has created a type of “give back” by providing a much longer than usual cutting season. From a handheld perspective equipment sales have been strong so far this year.


— Joe Fahey, vice president, product planning, Echo Incorporated


 


Sales for outdoor power equipment did improve due to the mild winter, especially for mowing equipment, with turf displaying aggressive growth with the early onset of spring. However, the mild winter did have a negative effect on sales of snow removal equipment.


The mild winter also had an impact on landscapers, who saw declines in revenues from lack of snow removal, but the early spring has resulted in an earlier start to the mowing season, which has helped to offset the contraction in winter revenues.


— Stan Guyer, president, The Grasshopper Company


 


Yes, the lack of snow cash flow disrupted the LSC business in two major ways. First, employees were laid off and equipment was liquidated. Second, early-season new equipment purchases were delayed or put off until next season.


— Bill Engler, director Sales LSC and industrial, Ariens Company (Gravely)


 


The early spring has definitely helped our business. We prepared for the warm weather by getting our product and dealer network in place and ready to help service our customers.


— Jeff Dewosky, vice president of dealer sales for Husqvarna


 


Overall retail turf sales exceeded YTD plan by 114 percent due to favorable weather conditions.


— Christine Chapman, assistant product manager, Kubota


 


Sales are higher than expected, and factories are working at full capacity in an effort to produce more for the increased demand.


— Paul Hollis, executive vice president, Redexim North America


 


The short winter has definitely impacted equipment sales for the better. With the earlier spring and start of the cutting season, spring, we see a longer selling season.


— Marv Mathwig, product manager for power tools, Stihl Inc.


 


In many parts of the country the mild winter resulted in contractors getting back to work earlier than usual. In turn, some contractors made their equipment purchasing decisions a little sooner than normal.


— Chris Hannan, marketing manager at Toro


 


Despite the mild winter, contractors still had to be prepared to service the accounts they signed. They made smart equipment decisions to ensure they could properly service their clients, but, due to the lack of snow and ice events, we noticed fewer impulse purchases throughout the season. On the other hand, the warm, early spring jumpstarted sales of turf care equipment.


— James Truan, vice president of sales and marketing for TrynEx International


 


We didn’t sell many snow-related attachments for our mini skid-steer lines as in the years past. However, it is suffice to say that equipment sales did stay robust during the winter months because of mild weather, as we haven’t seen a large fluctuation in the purchasing cycle.


— Jon Kuyers, global product manager, underground, Vermeer Corporation


 


We have seen an up-tick in business, and we have not seen a lot of fallout from the warm winter. Actually one of the areas we sell into that has a lot of snow contractors had one of their best months ever as a company.


— Tim Cromley, marketing manager, Walker Manufacturing Company


 


 


L&I: What factors should landscape company owners consider when adding to their equipment fleet during 2012?


 


Tier 4 is probably the biggest factor right now, as new federal emission mandates for off-road engines will raise prices by a significant margin. Less-expensive Tier 3 flex engines are still available, so companies considering new equipment in the next couple years can benefit from making that purchase this year, while Tier 3 engines are still available for purchase.


— Jason Morey, Bandit Industries small equipment sales manager.


 


I think owners should take a hard look at the emission standards, both air and noise related, that have limited both the types of equipment they can use, and the hours in a day they can work to complete a job. More states are following California’s lead, and adopting rules that really limit a landscaper’s ability to be productive using gas-powered or other noisy equipment. They should also consider the power equipment maintenance climb related to raised ethanol levels in “straight off the pump” fuel. The operating and maintenance costs for all gas-powered equipment is on the rise as 2-stroke engines are wearing much more rapidly with the presence of ethanol in fuel increasing significantly.


— Lincoln Jore, president of CORE Outdoor Power


 


There are product musts — including reliability, serviceability, durability, and quality of cut — that allow professional landscapers to do their jobs. But, there are also other factors that improve the overall experience and can deliver tangible, bottom-line value — the biggest being productivity improvements. And that goes beyond speed to things like stability on hills, training time — and don’t underestimate comfort.


— Allen L. Baird, product marketing manager, Cub Cadet


 


The main factor is adding pieces that can make them more efficient, able to expand their offering of services, and thus more profitable. Varity in services offered can sometimes result in better retention of repeat customers when they know your company can handle any job in and around their property.


— Kurt Kainz, marketing manager & direct sales, Echo Bear Cat


 


First and foremost, make sure you work with a dealer who offers a full selection of premium brands. Professional landscapers need the most durable and efficient products available, as well as the parts and service support needed to keep them productive. Prior to purchase, owners should take the time to review what is new with their dealers. Every year, there are new products with innovations that are designed to improve productivity and ultimately the bottom line. What was good last year may not be the best option this year.


— Joe Fahey, vice president, product planning, Echo Incorporated


 


The state of the economy, the ability to obtain credit for equipment purchases and available cash flow will continue to be important issues in 2012. Equally important are factors specific to equipment performance and maintenance, which can reduce costs. These factors include ease of operator training, safety and operational ease, multipurpose equipment for year-round profitability, ease of maintenance and service, equipment longevity and re-sale value.


Also weighing heavily on landscape companies are the continued effects of the recession, such as decreased discretionary spending by homeowners on landscaping services and soft-demand for new housing (however, these new properties eventually require landscape installation and maintenance). While consumer confidence and manufacturing outlooks have improved in recent months, fluctuating gas prices, uncertainty with the state of the European economy and its effects in the United States, as well as politics of the 2012 presidential election threaten to stall the economic recovery.


Still, we are confident that if we continue to see positive signs of recovery and growth, landscape companies will be more likely to invest in new equipment as existing and new clients request more services. The trend toward investing in outdoor living spaces, such as patios, pools, gardens and other backyard “getaway” features, is an opportunity for contractors to provide additional value to existing clients beyond simply maintaining those properties, and adding these services could require investment in new equipment.


— Stan Guyer, president, The Grasshopper Company


 


* Buying equipment from a dealer that will properly service the contractor and a manufacturer that will stand behind its warranty.


* Understanding their options for the right sized machine for the job. They should consider how they can best utilize and maximize the use of their machines.


* When buying equipment, understand and compare manufacturers’ costs of prevented maintenance parts and OEM parts cost. There is a big difference among manufacturers.


— Bill Engler, director Sales LSC and industrial, Ariens Company (Gravely)


 


They should strive to find the comfort and durability they’re looking for.


— Jeff Dewosky, vice president of dealer sales for Husqvarna


 


When adding equipment to your fleet, landscape professionals should look for durable, efficient commercial-grade equipment that is sized appropriately for the job.


— Christine Chapman, assistant product manager, Kubota


 


We see trends of landscape contractors trying to maximize their profitability with the equipment they already own.


— Darren Stoltenberg, field sales manager, PK Products


 


1. Quality, 2. Efficiency, 3. New service opportunities


— Paul Hollis, executive vice president, Redexim North America


 


There are several considerations to take into account, and everyone’s needs can differ, so we recommend consulting with the local servicing dealer, who can offer advice based on a customer’s specific needs, rather than generalizations. That being said, because downtime is lost money, landscape companies need to look for dealers and manufacturers that stand behind their equipment and brands that have a track record of reliability and durability that can stand up to the rigorous challenges a professional encounters.


And when it comes to bottom-line operating costs, fuel is a significant cost for the professional landscaper, so the fuel efficiency of equipment should be considered.


Also, some clients and locales may prefer or require landscape contractors to work outside normal hours due to emissions and noise, unless the equipment being used is low emission and low noise — being aware of such restrictions and making equipment purchases that allow for maximum productivity is also a factor worthy of consideration.


Customers should be concerned with getting the best value for their money, and the cheapest option may not be the best option.


— Marv Mathwig, product manager for power tools, Stihl Inc.


 


The overall durability of the mower is very important for landscape contractors to consider. In addition to a heavy-duty frame, commercial-grade engine and hydraulics, the construction of the cutting deck is critical. Contractors should consider the gauge of steel, spindle assemblies and overall design of the deck to ensure it can handle tough mowing conditions and deliver a superior quality of cut.


Performance of the mower is also very important. Landscape professionals should consider the responsiveness of the hydros, traction and stability on slopes, as well as the quality of cut the mower delivers. Other areas to evaluate are fuel efficiency technologies, total cost of ownership, serviceability, productivity and operator comfort.


— Chris Hannan, marketing manager at Toro


 


Make decisions based on the cost of ownership — not the purchase price — of a piece of equipment. Even if the purchase price is cheaper, a unit may cost more to maintain, or it may waste money due to lack of efficiency. Consider all factors to make smart equipment decisions and, ultimately, make more money.


— James Truan, vice president of sales and marketing for TrynEx International


 


Landscape business owners need to take a look at their operational capabilities and determine realistically what base workload exists — whether it is single or multiyear contracts — and forecast what new markets/services they need to offer due to customer demand. Do they have the right amount or type of equipment to meet the demand? Even though the signs indicate that the economy is strengthening, there is still a dose of uncertainly out there. Owners need to really ask themselves if this is the right time to buy equipment. What will be the return on investment? It may be a good time to buy, but consider if you will utilize the equipment enough to justify purchasing. If you don’t think you will use for at least 60 percent of the time, consider renting instead. If you plan on utilizing the equipment more than 60 percent, you may want to take advantage of some of the competitive financing programs that manufacturers offer.


— Jon Kuyers, global product manager, underground, Vermeer Corporation


 


Company owners need to be realistic about purchases, especially when considering the question of alternative fuels. There is a lot of pressure being put on companies to consider alternative fuels like propane. Are you capable of handling propane properly, and are you ready to add that to your employees’ responsibilities? Also, is this a good long-term investment? If alternative fuels were the best way to go, where are all of the alternative fuel cars? Think independently as an owner. Don’t just take someone’s opinion or be pressured into a purchase by trying to be “green.” Step back, demo the machines, and see what is best for your applications. There is enough information available that an owner should be able to make a very well-informed decision for each purchase.


— Tim Cromley, marketing manager, Walker Manufacturing Company


 


Equipment Trends: New Equipment for 2012

 


Bandit Industries


Bandit is excited about its new compact hydrostatic stump grinders. In spring, the company launched the Bandit Model 2250XP with a 27-hp. engine and 2-wheel drive, and it’s been a huge success. It doesn’t have any drive belts or bearings, and anyone who grinds stumps knows just how much time and money can be spent on changing bearings and adjusting belts. With the direct hydrostatic drive the power goes right to the cutter wheel, and it also doesn’t require nearly as much maintenance as traditional stump grinders. Demand has been so strong that Bandit now has a second hydrostatic stump grinder, the 2550XP, that’s coming into the market. It’s also self-propelled, but it offers 4-wheel drive with a wireless remote and engine options up to 44 hp.


 


CORE Outdoor Power


In February 2012, CORE Outdoor Power launched the first product from its suite of GasLess outdoor power equipment, the CGT400 line trimmer. CORE’s products operate using a cutting-edge wireless motor that works by means of embedding copper-etched conductors into a multi-layered circuit board stator, which, when coupled with permanent magnets, allows for high torque at extremely high efficiencies. Combining this proprietary motor with a compact, hybrid power cell produces a product line that is lightweight, virtually noiseless and completely emission-free. The CGT400 features an instant trigger start, high-energy power cell, dual-mode controls for torque and speed, open-view grass guard, comfort-grip handle, and runs just as long as a full tank of gas. CORE is getting ready to debut 3 new products this summer including a handheld blower, backpack blower and hedge trimmers.


 


Cub Cadet


Cub Cadet introduced TANK SZ and TANK LZ to the professional landscape and lawn care markets this year. The TANK SZ, which denotes steering wheel zero-turn, delivers incredible maneuverability, turf protection and remarkable traction — even on steep inclines, due to Cub Cadet’s exclusive 4-wheel steer technology (patented as Synchro Steer Technology). The TANK LZ, which denotes lap-bar zero-turn, features an intelligent and responsive lap bar system that allows for a full range of adjustability and rider egress, regardless of position.


 


Echo Bear Cat


2012 will see the release of a new line of Echo Bear Cat wheeled trimmers and debris loaders. The 190cc Subaru powered wheeled trimmers — models WT24, WT24T and WT24S — have features that include offset trimming, tilt-n-trim and self-propelled. The new debris loader, model DL8, has an 8-inch intake, and is powered by a 404cc Subaru engine. The new DL10 has a 10-inch intake, and is powered by a 570cc Briggs & Stratton engine. These 2 new debris loaders are 2-inch-receiver-hitch mountable, and feature accessories that will help make short work of the heaviest fall foliage and debris clean-up needs.


 


Echo Incorporated


Echo introduced several new products that will benefit professional landscapers. The first is the PAS-280. This power unit along with the new Bed Redefiner attachment creates a great unit for landscapers to sculpt bed edges quickly and easily. Since this unit is a split boom, the power unit can be used all year long with other attachments to create even more value and utility. Another product is the re-introduction of the PB-755. This unit was a workhorse and a favorite of many landscapers. Echo brought it back at a lower price, which makes it an even better value for landscapers with tough jobs. Echo will also be introducing a new series of Shindaiwa hedge trimmers. The DH232 (double sided) and HT232 (single sided) are now 2 pounds lighter than before.


 


The Grasshopper Company


For the 2012 product year, Grasshopper introduced the MidMount 321D-48. The combination of the 21-hp. MaxTorque diesel engine and 48-inch DuraMax deck provides effortless maneuvering in tight spaces, and powerful, efficient performance in tough conditions.


In addition, several implements are now compatible with a steering-lever-mounted joystick control option. These include the snowthrower, dozer blade, rotary broom and turbine blower attachments. The joystick control allows for on-the-go implement lifting, as well as spout and nozzle rotation for the snowthrower and turbine blower, and angling adjustment for the blades and brooms. Easily control the performance of the attachment from the operator seat without stopping productivity.


Also new in 2012 are: 1) Grasshopper’s exclusive PowerFold electric deck lift is now a standard feature on all FrontMount 72-inch and 35 Series Rear Discharge DuraMax decks, 2) 72-inch 4X rear-discharge decks for MidMount model 329B, which can mow up to 6.5 acres per hour, 3) a redesigned winter enclosure with additional comfort options including 2 access doors and specific front panels depending on the particular snow removal implement in use.


 


Gravely

Gravely Pro Stance
Gravely Pro Walk 61-inch — Professional Walk
Gravely Pro Turn EFI units — zero turn
Gravely Pro Turn 400 (gas and EFI) — zero turn
Gravely professional blowers
Gravely truck loaders

 


Husqvarna


Husqvarna introduced a new backpack blower range, which has been very well received by professional users. Thi

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