Equipment Trends

Equipment Trends 2021

Landscape Business recently asked representatives from equipment manufacturers throughout the industry to share their insights into market trends and what industry professionals need to know. Responses to our Equipment Trends questions are presented here in the order in which they were received.

Landscape Business (LB): What trends are you seeing with regard to outdoor power equipment for professional lawn and landscape applications? 

A big trend that is not going away is that landscapers are figuring out how to do more with less, thanks to the complex labor market that exists right now. With hiring and retention an issue for many landscaping business owners, they’re turning to equipment that helps them get more jobs done – and therefore generate more revenue – with a smaller crew.

– James R. Day, general manager, Turf Teq

By far, the biggest trend we’re seeing right now is product electrification as it begins to make inroads into the commercial lawn and landscape space. I’d go as far as to say it is the single biggest equipment trend and we’ll be talking about it for the foreseeable future as it starts to change the way professional landscapers buy, operate and maintain equipment.

Close on the heels of electrification is the trend in robotics for commercial products. The ability of robotic equipment to change the future of the commercial landscape industry is staggering and with the advances we’re seeing, widespread adoption may not be that far off.

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– Joe Ferris, product manager, commercial products, Briggs & Stratton

The two that immediately come to mind are stand-on equipment and the addition of electric equipment. We have seen in a lot of situations stand-on equipment can be more efficient and more comfortable for the operator. Stand-on equipment can be more versatile compared to some of the more traditional mowing and snow equipment.

The addition of electric-powered equipment has started to take off industrywide. Companies are seeing the value that electric power can bring.

– Jon Friess, product specialist, Steiner

Autonomous mowers are making headway into the market to aid with the shortage of workers. Smart technology and software programs are growing in applications and product offerings to aid professionals in improving their margins and business efficiency. 

Alternative fuels are also gaining notice in the commercial landscape, specifically electric operation, and I recommend that business owners work to educate themselves on these new offerings and how they can make up an overall fleet of equipment.

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, Doosan Bobcat North America

We’re seeing landscapers look for more power and versatility from their machines. One large contributing factor for those trends is that the landscaping industry is currently facing a worker shortage, and landscapers are looking for ways that machines can support smaller crews. Machines with more power can fill the gaps by lifting loads that would require three or four workers to lift. Heavier machines can also haul heavier weight – reducing the time spent unloading a machine, and helping crews move quicker through a project.

Versatile machines such as stand-on skid steers are also growing in popularity with landscapers. Stand-on skid steers offer landscapers the ability to take on multiple different jobs with one machine by utilizing different attachments. Having just one machine on site reduces transportation headaches and keeps jobsites from being congested with multiple machines. And the hop-on/hop-off ability of a stand-on machine is very beneficial for smaller crews, as it’s very simple for crewmembers to transition between operating a machine and helping with manual labor.

With smaller crews and high demand, many landscapers are taking on two or three different jobs in a day, so machines with more power and versatility will keep a crew efficient and lead to higher profit – that’s why they’re growing in popularity.

– Brant Kukuk, product marketing manager – compact equipment, Ditch Witch

We see an emphasis on equipment that can maintain highly reliable productivity given some strain filling workforce needs. There’s also a continued movement toward accessories that further increase productivity. Some examples include trimmer racks that mount on zero-turn mowers – allowing one operator to essentially carry all they’ll need for a job. Onboard garbage pails and grapplers are also popular, as they limit time spent picking up debris.

– Sean Dwyer, professional wheeled product manager, Husqvarna

With increased demand and labor shortages, customers are looking for additional ways to improve efficiency. This is an area we monitor very closely, and we adapt our machines to match customer needs. Whether it’s a dual boom or a customized machine with LED lights to start the workday earlier or later for additional production, applicator needs are driving us to innovate for maximum efficiency.

– Matt Smith, sales manager, Steel Green Manufacturing

We are seeing the emergence of robotic mowing as a service from contractors in certain regions. Also we see more manufacturers offering a commercial cutting solution that is fully electric and battery powered. There are also some disruptors on the fringe that have not made it to market yet looking to offer a commercial robotic mowing solution. We are seeing more entrants into commercial turf care applications (spreading and spraying), as well as machines carrying more liquid capacity and some applicators offering organic products. We continue to see historically pedestrian (walk) product transition to ride/stand-on product, which favors productivity and is less fatiguing – often doing the job of two or more walk products. We are seeing more machines using digital controls and some with touch screen user interfaces that help with vehicle diagnostics, maintenance reminders and fleet management. More vehicles are offering air-less tires to eliminate the downtime from a flat tire. There are also more petrol engines available now that offer fuel injection and a reduction in fuel expense. We also see technology surrounding engine air cleaners that are more adequate for the outdoor power environment, which leads to longer service intervals. Lastly, we are seeing the emergence of engines with large oil sumps that dramatically reduce the frequency of oil changes and service intervals, saving time and money for contractors.

– Brandon King, product manager, Billy Goat 

During the first half of 2021, consumers have started to travel more, and this trend is leaning toward less DIY lawn care, which was more popular during the height of the COVID pandemic. However, the prevalence of increased travel and being away from home for consumers also points to increased opportunities and heightened services for professional lawn and landscape services – companies that depend on power equipment products. Because lawn care professionals keep many jobs and services moving, their companies must have high-quality equipment on the trailer to get jobs done and keep customers satisfied. 

The landscape market also continues to benefit from increased innovation and development of equipment and tools. Outdoor power product owners remain focused on how to get the most value from their equipment and how to most effectively complete outdoor landscaping maintenance and projects.

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

Based on industry trends, commercial walk-behinds have seen growth compared to last year, the smaller deck gear drive machines have seen resurgence with the segment up over 30%. Commercial ZTR mower market shipments have been up 7% compared to last year, while the stand-on segment has seen a 17% increase over last year’s results. Some manufacturers are experiencing supply chain issues, which are impacting commercial mower deliveries and, in turn, the overall commercial mower segment. Typically these trends mean there are more startup landscapers moving into the commercial segment.

– Tom Vachal, senior product manager, Kubota Turf

A big issue for professional landscapers is the lack of laborers. Business owners are looking for ways to be more productive or maintain their current level of productivity with the same or fewer employees. Some pros are buying larger, high-production mowers; we’re also seeing an increase in stand-on mower sales. While stand-ons might come with a slightly larger price tag, they’ll prove their worth with their performance. Another trend is that landscapers are converting their entire fleet to stand-on mowers to mow more lawns in a day, ultimately maintaining or increasing their productivity. 

 Frank Nuss, product specialist, Hustler Turf Equipment

Performance and functionality related to equipment size is a big focus right now. From compact excavators with zero tail-swing or ultra-tight tail swing, contractors are finding more value in equipment that can go where others can’t. For example, zero tail-swing and ultra-tight tail swing allows operators to work closer to buildings with less risk of damaging the structure. Similarly, small compact track loaders can fit through areas such as backyard fences that may otherwise have to be modified to allow equipment. These small loaders often feature ground pressures as low as 3.1 psi, and, therefore, minimize turf damage.

Overall operator experience is another growing focus. Especially for owner-operators, more people want comfortable, easy-to-use equipment. Premium 360-degree visibility lets operators navigate easier in tight areas and see track edges, bucket edges and corners, and more. 

Attachment offerings are also expanding. Contractors want to be able to do more with their existing equipment, and innovative attachments provide that versatility.

– Buck Storlie, product manager, Yanmar Compact Equipment North America

Over recent years, manufacturers have increased their investment toward developing battery-powered outdoor power equipment that will one day be a full replacement for current gas-powered solutions. Since the introduction of battery-powered equipment, the benefits of these solutions have been clear: no mixing gas and oil, no pull starts, lower noise, no emissions, and no engine maintenance. As the performance of battery-powered technology has improved, we have seen a trend of professionals adopting them as supplemental tools to their gas units to take advantage of these benefits. 

As we are seeing more and more government regulations around noise and emissions, there is an increase in properties – such as hospitals and municipalities – that require the use of low-noise or no-emission equipment. Through utilizing a mix of gas and battery-powered tools, the professional market is starting to gain an understanding of how battery technology can benefit them now and in the future when it has advanced enough to fully replace their current gas units.

– Tony Buxton, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

With the landscaping market growth we have seen year over year, there are many reasons why this industry segment now has a higher “take rate” for our compact equipment. The landscaping market has shown increased interest in our entire line of products: compact excavators, compact track loaders and compact wheel loaders. Much of this increase is coming from rentals and sales of our excavators in the 1-5 metric ton class, as well as our track loaders up to 74 hp. We are also seeing some of our landscaping customers find additional revenue opportunities by engaging in more land-clearing applications by coupling our track loaders with our fixed mulching head attachments.

– John Vranches, division sales manager – eastern U.S. / Canada, Takeuchi

Homeowners are continuing to focus on home improvements, both inside and out. They’re putting a priority on beautifying their outdoor spaces, and are looking to landscape contractors to help them make it happen. This high demand, combined with ongoing labor shortages, has landscape professionals looking for ways to be more productive and efficient, so they can do more with less. 

– Jamie Briggs, director of marketing, Exmark

At our beginnings, we designed and manufactured mowers that delivered the productivity of a wide-area mower with the precision of a small push mower. This combination answered the need to mow more without sacrificing quality. Today, we continue to see trends and demands for mowers that are built to mow more in less time.

– Ryan Cheek, sales director, Lastec

Sustainability of design and usage of equipment to reduce lifecycle emissions and operational emissions. Smart Logic for tools and equipment that work together. As an example, recognizing what tool has been added to a piece of equipment so the electronics and hydraulics are optimized. Automation and remote control.

– John Janes, marketing and sales support manager, Caterpillar

The demand for battery-powered equipment continues to increase among professionals and consumers. Many municipalities and residential areas now require low- to no-exhaust emissions and lower noise levels, so the market is adapting to meet those needs.  

We are prepared to support landscapers with this transition over the next few years with one of the broadest ranges of powerful professional battery equipment.

And while battery products certainly grow in popularity, we continue to enhance our professional gas product range, improving power while lowering weight, reducing emissions and improving serviceability. 

– Nick Jiannas, vice president of sales & marketing, Stihl Inc.

LB: How have the challenges of the past year impacted design, production and sales of commercial outdoor power equipment, and/or how landscape industry professionals are approaching their outdoor power equipment needs and decisions in 2021? 

Sales have been, and continue to be, very strong for Turf Teq products, both during and after the pandemic. However, logistics and availability of raw materials continues to be a challenge. Fortunately, with an outstanding effort from our employees and our vendors, we maintained full production over the past 18 months. That effort allowed us to fill our orders quickly, and in most cases we are shipping products in less than 48 hours.

– James R. Day, general manager, Turf Teq

Like many industries, the disruption in the global supply chain and labor shortages have caused delays in manufacturing equipment, and, in some cases, getting products needed to service equipment. Reduction in raw materials needed for production translates to less product available on the market for landscapers making it more difficult for them to get what they want when they want it.

We’re starting to see some of the supply chain issues improve, but landscapers can expect to see the impact through the spring 2022 season. So, my advice is for landscapers to assess their current fleet of equipment and make any purchasing decisions for next seasons earlier than usual to ensure they get the equipment they want when they need it.

– Joe Ferris, product manager, commercial products, Briggs & Stratton

The past year has brought many challenges to the landscape business. Working from home and the lack of in-person collaboration had a major impact on design. Factories have had to navigate mandatory shutdowns and adjust to new safety regulations, as well as labor shortages. However, with people working from home, it has allowed them to take on and complete more landscape projects around the house. Which, in turn, has led to an uptick in retail sales. 

– Jon Friess, product specialist, Steiner 

The pandemic certainly affected us on the manufacturing side, as some components were unavailable from our suppliers due to plant shutdowns and a smaller labor force. This forced us to be more specific on commercial product production to help meet our customer’s needs. On the sales side, while the overall commercial market was down due to the pandemic, we saw growth on that family of products. 

In the future, I think landscapers will be analyzing their purchasing decisions more to determine what commercial products in the market will aid them in getting their job done with a smaller workforce.

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, Doosan Bobcat North America

There have been two main challenges that have affected the outdoor power equipment market over the past year. The first challenge has been the workforce shortage, which has driven down the size of landscaping crews. The trend toward smaller crews has increased the popularity of mid-size and large compact equipment. The workforce challenge has also come during a rise in demand for landscape work. With many homeowners working from home and some having extra room in their budgets from canceled travel, home renovations and landscaping projects have been in high demand.

The other challenge from the past year has been a global shortage of parts for many manufacturers. This parts shortage has increased the importance of planning ahead for landscapers, as it could be difficult to get parts.

– Brant Kukuk, product marketing manager – compact equipment, Ditch Witch

The industry had to balance production capabilities and serving the market. As a global leader, Husqvarna has resources to adjust. We listen carefully to customer’s needs, make strategic decisions regarding our product lineup to drive availability and maintain effective short-term and long-term projections. This enables us to react quickly and communicate to landscape industry professionals so they can make the best choices to maintain and grow their businesses. 

– Sean Dwyer, professional wheeled product manager, Husqvarna

We’ve seen incredible growth in the past year. Although COVID-19 did disrupt certain months of production, it hasn’t slowed down our sales. As you can imagine, the increased cost of materials has been the largest issue. We’ve absorbed more price increases than normal, but we decided to wait until September 1 to pass along any increase to our customers. The fourth quarter will be very interesting from a sales standpoint. We’re seeing companies forecast their needs much earlier this year because of their concerns that products could be delayed for 2022. 

– Matt Smith, sales manager, Steel Green Manufacturing

The industry has faced huge difficulties over the past 12 months in terms of business continuity, labor shortages and scarcity of raw materials driving up product cost. This, coupled with transportation delays and ocean freight price hikes, has made a negative impact on market pricing and product availability. Focus has been directed more to supply, as the demand side of the equation becomes less of concern with product shortages becoming the norm. That said, sales have been strong with not all demand able to be met. The outlook is for continued high levels of demand and the industry looking for creative ways to compete and flourish. 

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport 

Many of the office personnel from the manufacturers (engineering, supply chain, sales, marketing, etc.) had to adapt to working remotely during COVID. This presented IT/communication challenges for many manufacturers, as most were not equipped to handle that many employees working remotely from their system.  Adaptation to remote design reviews and CAD collaboration did impact the timing on some design projects, and critical milestone prototypes had to be carefully coordinated for head count and space to maintain social distancing. Production had to continue by spacing out employees and coordinating breaks to keep head count down in break areas. COVID-positive cases would disrupt/shut down production for periods of time until areas could be sanitized. Some manufacturers expanded second and third shifts that would allow the typical size of the first shift to decrease and spread the workforce out over a 24-hour period and try to maintain daily production rates. Some employees chose not to risk their safety and did not return to work, causing headcount shortages. Compounding internal production issues came from the supply chain, as the vendors faced all the same issues producing components for the OPE manufacturer, delivery dates of key components started to extend. Sales did far fewer in-person demos/customer visits, and there was almost a complete blackout on sales conferences and in-person industry shows. The platform for the shows went virtual, and there was a learning curve to attain the same value from typical in-person shows. All the while, demand for products increased as landscape industry professionals were deemed essential in most states, and the population working from home focused on home/property improvements.   

– Brandon King, product manager, Billy Goat 

Overall, even into the second half of 2021, the supply chain still is experiencing issues, including factory delays, port delays, warehouse delays and transportation delays. It is important that professional landscapers communicate with their local dealers concerning their overall needs so they can meet expectations for their own customers. 

The challenges of the past year also serve as a reminder of the importance of equipment maintenance, both for the consumer and the landscape professional.  One of the most important guidelines for power equipment owners is keeping product manuals handy to check for specific information related to the proper care and maintenance of their equipment. Even for the experienced landscape professional, knowing and understanding the maintenance requirements for lawn mowers, tillers or trimmers – including the general-purpose engine that powers the equipment in question – is key to keeping equipment in top-performing condition. 

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

Business outlook overall is good, but the pandemic, weather and global transportation issues have brought about inventory challenges for many manufacturers. Many are not able to meet production demands, which puts more demand on dealers’ inventories and, in turn, the customer. The end result is the commercial mowing segment may experience some product shortages in the coming months. To keep working, many are having to compromise on the machines they want due to demand and availability.

– Tom Vachal, senior product manager, Kubota Turf

One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers across industries is the raw materials delay. OEM suppliers currently cannot produce fast enough to meet demand. We’re seeing it with car manufacturers, lawn equipment manufacturers and others. Subsequently, landscapers are being forced to adapt. Some aren’t taking on more business until they can get parts they need to complete services, such as outdoor lighting or pavers. Dealers even have to prioritize some clients over others based on fleet size and/or productivity needs in relation to availability of materials.

 Frank Nuss, product specialist, Hustler Turf Equipment

Despite the economy essentially shutting down early in the pandemic, the compact equipment market has since surged dramatically. With this boom, a workforce shortage has become more of a problem, increasing the importance of comfortable equipment. A premium operator experience within the cab, including comfort, ride quality and advanced features, can help to retain and attract operators. 

Professionals are also looking to increase their earning potential. You need machines that perform with the right attachment combinations. Contractors are always looking for lighter equipment with increased power and performance. 

Total cost of ownership has also come to light and has become more important to buyers. Owner-operators are considering the true cost of their equipment per hour and hours per job. They are taking into account things like maintenance costs, fuel consumption, insurance, transport fees and other factors that impact profitability per job. 

– Buck Storlie, product manager, Yanmar Compact Equipment North America

Coming out of the past year with more people returning to in-person work environments, professionals have gained a greater confidence in how their business will look moving forward. As landscape maintenance companies look to the future, they have started to increase their investment and purchases in new equipment; with more and more requirements around low noise and no emissions, this has expedited the need for battery-powered solutions. Not only does battery-powered equipment allow professionals to stay ahead of emerging requirements, it also opens them up for a wider variety of customers that are looking for more eco-friendly services.

– Tony Buxton, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

Like all manufacturers in this industry, we’re experiencing post-COVID supply chain ,and component availability challenges in 2021. We’re also seeing both our existing customers and new customers renting equipment or purchasing units further in advance to ensure they have the right machines and attachments to complete upcoming jobs. We’re also seeing an uptick in equipment purchases from the rental market, considering supply issues and the stability of interest rates and cost to borrow. This increase is most likely the result of decreased rental machine availability as fleets have diminished throughout the U.S. due to the increased lead time it’s taking to buy replacement units. 

– John Vranches, division sales manager – eastern U.S. / Canada, Takeuchi

Several new challenges – particularly working remotely and travel limitations – challenged us to interact with our customers in new ways. This was especially so in terms of receiving customer feedback and ensuring our products are meeting their needs and expectations. The Exmark design team has been quite busy working on new products as well. That said, we had to change up the methods we used to get our customers’ feedback on prototypes of new products we’re developing. Voice of customer is an essential piece of our testing process; and, in the past, most of it was handled in-person.

– Jamie Briggs, director of marketing, Exmark

Less manpower, less equipment, less maintenance, less fuel and less labor are foremost in the minds of all industry professionals. As a manufacturer, we provide equipment solutions that help reduce overall costs for operators.

– Ryan Cheek, sales director, Lastec

Globally, supply chains remain challenged. Availability of consumables; equipment is still challenged. Labor still remains a challenge.  

– John Janes, marketing and sales support manager, Caterpillar

Over the past year, we have seen encouraging sales activity, and we have heard from dealers and landscapers that business has remained steady, if not exceeding expectations.

Overall, the industry is trending upwards. Many consumers are spending more time at home, and are finding time to tackle lingering projects on their home and garden to-do lists – whether on their own or hiring professional contractors.  

While we have seen some impacts to our supply chain, globally, Stihl continues to make every effort to provide Stihl dealers the products and services they need to support their customers.   

– Nick Jiannas, vice president of sales & marketing, Stihl Inc.

LB: What advice do you have for landscape industry professionals regarding their equipment decisions over the next 12 to 18 months? 

It’s important to determine if the products you are planning to purchase will be available in the next 12 to 18 months. With lead times from some manufacturers stretching out a year or more, you may need to rethink your priorities based on availability. That might mean accelerating certain purchases while trying to grind out a few more years from existing equipment based on what will be available in the short term. Materials, staffing, shipping and other factors are dramatically impacting some manufacturers, so it’s smart to plan ahead with lead times in mind.

– James R. Day, general manager, Turf Teq

Planning your purchases in advance is first and foremost. As I mentioned, the supply chain issues will continue to impact product availability.

I’d also advise landscape industry professionals to invest in products designed for efficiency and productivity to help offset the tight labor market we’re all experiencing. Look for products that offer that extra horsepower or an extra mile or two of groundspeed per hour.

Advanced suspension systems may be one of the industry’s most important productivity technologies. It improves the comfort of the operator, the quality of cut and traction allowing operators to sustain a higher groundspeed throughout the day. Just adding a single mile per hour all day long can make a big difference in productivity throughout the day/season. Enhancing productivity is always important for professional landscapers, but today’s labor market makes it even more so.

– Joe Ferris, product manager, commercial products, Briggs & Stratton

Patience! The entire industry is in the process of recovering from the past year. Production has taken longer for most companies to get back on their feet, which has resulted in longer lead times. While the industry continues to heal, take this time to make educated decisions. Do some research on different products, get out for equipment demos, and talk with your local dealers to make sure you are buying the best products to fit your needs and budget.  

– Jon Friess, product specialist, Steiner

We recommend that business owners make equipment choices through the lens of efficiency and ROI. As we’ve seen for the past year, efficiency remains key for landscapers, as the pandemic continues to affect the landscaping market.

Commercial mowers that have intuitive operator interface, quick access for cleaning and service, and a fast mode of operation are important to aid the teams in long workdays with less operators. 

Also, landscapers may want to review their overall business offerings. As homeowners have put a lot of work into their yards last year being at home, they will need help maintaining those properties as people return to work. On the maintenance and management side, it’s important for professionals to do what they can to maintain turf health.

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, Doosan Bobcat North America

Plan ahead. That’s my top piece of advice for landscapers.

First, landscapers should plan ahead regarding maintenance. For machine maintenance, landscapers should schedule maintenance to accommodate their jobs so that they don’t need to take on jobs without one of their machines on the jobsite. It is also important to service maintenance points and follow machine best practices to avoid causing any damage to equipment.

Another aspect of planning is with machine purchases. Landscapers should consider what their machine needs will be in the next few years, and contact their local dealer now to learn about solutions to meet those needs.

Finally, landscapers should begin planning for the winter months right now. With the workforce shortage, it’s more important than ever to keep crews busy year-round. Landscapers should look for ways to stay in business during the winter months. For example, compact equipment like stand-on skid steers can be repurposed with different attachments for snow removal and other winter tasks.

Working on a plan for future business decisions will keep landscapers equipped and busy for the long run.

– Brant Kukuk, product marketing manager – compact equipment, Ditch Witch

With industrywide inventory challenges in 2021, those that can effectively maintain their tools will ultimately have the best opportunity to meet customer needs. Over the next 12 to 18 months, we believe an increased emphasis on maintenance and care can help mitigate challenges in service needs in the short term for 2021, and early 2022.

– Sean Dwyer, professional wheeled product manager, Husqvarna

Look for ways to maximize your equipment to minimize the effects of ongoing labor shortages on your business. You may spend more money on a machine now, but it can quickly pay for itself with an increased workload in the long run.

– Matt Smith, sales manager, Steel Green Manufacturing

With more product delays, product shortages, and increased costs fuelled by a fortress mentality government trade policy against imported product, landscape professionals are encouraged to make their replacement buying decisions early in the season. Pricing will no doubt continue to rise as the season takes hold and demand surpasses supply. Product shortages are forecast to rise as the season progresses, leading to more price pressure in the marketplace.

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport

The availability of basic commodities required to build outdoor power equipment (steel, aluminum, plastic, wood for crates, etc.) has caused prices to increase and lead times to extend. Be patient, be flexible, and have a good stash of service parts in the event a new machine is not available for weeks beyond order. If you can, place your new machine orders as early as possible so your business is not in jeopardy waiting on a machine. Also, be of a mindset to take what is available if you are in desperate need of a piece of equipment. Lastly, consider machines with higher productivity given ongoing labor constraints and higher wages.

– Brandon King, product manager, Billy Goat 

It comes down to selecting the right equipment and keeping it maintained. Overall, landscape professionals want to get the work done well and efficiently. To do that, they need to keep their equipment fleets stocked with easy-to-use, reliable equipment, and to keep that equipment operating at peak performance. In addition, a strong relationship with a local dealer helps in buying equipment, parts and service. 

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

If supply chain issues continue to impact new equipment inventory, many commercial mower users will want to consider repairing their machines much like they did during the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, instead of replacing them with new machines. But, again, this time it is not due to business outlook but due to available supply. New units are coming, but you still may have to wait for specific models and brands.

– Tom Vachal, senior product manager, Kubota Turf

Order early and often. Do not wait until you have low inventory, need a part or are in need of new equipment, because you will likely experience delays. As we look ahead to 2022, let your local dealer know what you will need in advance. Have them order it for you, because you cannot wait until next spring at this point – especially if you are a high-production company. Landscapers rely on their equipment to make money; and if they can’t get a part to properly maintain their mowers, they can suffer financially. Currently, next-day shipping is not as reliable as it used to be; we recommend ordering what you need as soon as you can.

 Frank Nuss, product specialist, Hustler Turf Equipment

With the growing focus on operator experience, industry professionals need to pay attention to comfort and ease-of-use features. These could include fully adjustable seats, Bluetooth speakers, or near-360-degree visibility. Also look for reliability indicators such as leading warranties, anti-derailment guarantees, and cooling capacity. 

The ability to do more in more places is as important as ever, with companies facing workforce shortages and a higher amount of available work. Choose a machine you can get the most out of and use to bid more jobs by paying careful attention to performance, speed, the ability to work in all seasons, and more.

Consider the future as well. Don’t buy a 3.5-ton compact excavator if your expansion plans will mostly involve a 5.5-ton machine. 

– Buck Storlie, product manager, Yanmar Compact Equipment North America

We are seeing major advancements in battery-powered solutions in this industry, and some are viable replacements for current-gas powered tools. In the U.S., we are seeing a large focus on reducing noise and emissions. By investing in battery-powered equipment, landscape maintenance companies are able to stay ahead of these trends. 

With an eye to the future, adoption rates of battery-powered equipment have been steadily increasing among professionals in order to be prepared for the potential of further regulations. 

– Tony Buxton, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

Now, post-COVID, inflation has become a reality for all. The cost of goods continues to rise, so purchasing the right equipment now is the right choice if it makes sense, and can help contractors expand their service offerings and bring in additional revenue.

– John Vranches, division sales manager – eastern U.S. / Canada, Takeuchi

Equipment inventories will continue to be on the low side well into next year due to challenges with component availability and supply at the manufacturing level. As a result, customers needing new equipment should contact their dealer early, and start the buying process earlier in the year than they might have in the past. It’s also especially important to complete the preventative maintenance equipment needs to minimize in-season downtime. Dealer service departments are very busy with repairs, so extended downtime may result from an equipment breakdown. Now more than ever, it pays to take care of your equipment.

– Jamie Briggs, director of marketing, Exmark

Stay in communication with dealers, suppliers and even manufacturers to have a full picture of product availability, lead times and products in the pipeline. Try to anticipate your equipment needs as much as possible, and take some risks that will help grow your business. It is easy to keep doing what you’ve always done, but change can lead to bigger and better results.

– Ryan Cheek, sales director, Lastec

Equipment uptime is even more important. Therefore, selection of high uptime availability is key. Additionally, that equipment that provides higher levels of productivity will be in demand. 

– John Janes, marketing and sales support manager, Caterpillar

When considering new equipment, consider a mix of gasoline and battery-powered equipment to provide flexibility, cost savings, and market differentiation.  

We believe the most important consideration is purchasing quality tools from a source that provides quality service.

– Nick Jiannas, vice president of sales & marketing, Stihl Inc.

LB: What is your outlook for the commercial outdoor power equipment market for the remainder of 2021 and beyond? 

My outlook is strong! Even over the past year, the grounds care industry has stayed busy, and we see no signs of a slowdown. With homeowners and businesses investing in their properties like never before, crews and manufacturers alike will have to keep up the pace in 2021 and beyond.

– James R. Day, general manager, Turf Teq

For the remainder of 2021 and beyond, I expect that we’ll see product availability improve as the supply chain continues to realign itself. But it will be a process and won’t correct itself overnight and we anticipate that the traditional purchasing season will be extended.

During this time, it’s important to remember that, as an industry, we’re all in this together – suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, dealers and end-users. Any troubles you are facing are felt throughout the chain; and as much advance planning and ordering as possible will go a long way to alleviating any issues down the road.

– Joe Ferris, product manager, commercial products, Briggs & Stratton

The OPE market is trending in a positive direction. As we move out of the pandemic, the key will be getting people back to work and operating equipment again. People will always need their grass cut and have material moved. The key will be to think about purchasing machines that have multiple-season capability. With the labor market struggling to get back on its feet, being able to accomplish more work with less people is going to be the key to success for the near future and beyond.

– Jon Friess, product specialist, Steiner

Our 2021 commercial mower and lawn care outlook and beyond looks optimistic, as we see the overall market growing this year. We see the resilient commercial landscapers coming back strong and taking on equipment that they may have decided to wait on purchasing last year, what with all the shutdowns and customers working on home projects with their monetary funds being diverted elsewhere. We are definitely mowing forward!

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, Doosan Bobcat North America

Demand for landscape work is going to stay strong and demand for outdoor power equipment is going to be strong as well. The industry is also going to begin to see the return to normal after the pandemic. While some trade shows have already happened this year, the second half of the year will see shows like The Utility Expo, GIE+EXPO, TCI Expo and The Rental Show. In conjunction with these shows, many manufacturers will be announcing new products that will be designed to meet the needs of landscapers in today’s industry. The second half of 2021 will be a great time for landscapers to find new products and talk to manufacturers about ways to improve their business.

– Brant Kukuk, product marketing manager – compact equipment, Ditch Witch

Impacts from COVID-19 make the market outlook difficult to predict, but as a global leader, we believe we are best positioned to adapt to changes in the market. For the remainder of 2021, and beyond, Husqvarna will continue to strive to meet the needs of our commercial landscape customers through innovative products that get the job done and deliver great results.

– Sean Dwyer, professional wheeled product manager, Husqvarna

We have a very positive outlook for the coming years. There’s a lot of potential for growth in demand and innovation within the industry, and Steel Green is eager to meet the evolving needs of the market. Customer service will always be our number-one priority, but looking for new ways to improve the industry is a close second. 

– Matt Smith, sales manager, Steel Green Manufacturing

The medium to long-term effects of the pandemic will result in a continued shortage of machines to service the marketplace. Commercial and consumer walk-behind machines alike will remain in short supply next season due to COVID-related supply issues, as well as new tariffs applying to both machinery and engines, which will limit imports and put the local manufacturers under even more pressure to increase capacity to meet heightened demand. 

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport

Strong demand for equipment on top of inventory shortages and freight challenges.  Manufacturers will struggle to fill all the demand they have while trying to build up an inventory buffer to protect the seasonality of products.

– Brandon King, product manager, Billy Goat 

As we navigate the second half of 2021, product supply to meet demand will remain a challenge; even in 2022, the outdoor power products industry will continue to have the same carryover from 2021, which is why supply, in general, is not expected to improve until the second half of the next calendar year. 

In concert with this industry forecast, our position at Honda Power Equipment remains constant. We always maintain focus on quality, reliability, dependability and innovation. 

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

I expect the commercial mower market to rebound over last year’s down year, but new product supply may be a pacing item, and we might see mower purchases later in the year as the supply rebounds. 

– Tom Vachal, senior product manager, Kubota Turf

For the foreseeable future, the raw material and product delivery delays will remain. Landscapers and dealers still won’t be able to get what they need as quickly as they used to. Due to the delays, landscapers should not wait to order new equipment or service their existing machinery. Don’t wait until March to bring your mower to your dealer for the spring; get it there in November or December when they might not be as busy. Also, order parts (belts, blades or other fast-moving parts) now, in anticipation of needing them in the future. If something goes on them during the height of the season, that could negatively affect productivity and income if it’s not fixed quick enough.

We also cannot stress enough that landscapers’ relationships with their dealers are more important now than they ever have been. Although things are becoming “normal” again, dealers and customers still expect the “COVID courtesy” – the understanding that some tasks are going to take longer due to pandemic-related delays. While customers used to be able to jump from dealer to dealer depending on their needs, that is no longer a possibility. The dealer/client relationship is crucial to getting through the delays.

– Frank Nuss, product specialist, Hustler Turf Equipment

Compact equipment is continuing to grow in popularity in an equipment market that’s expanding overall. Forestry applications are also quickly expanding, with a lot of landscape contractors veering into the growing mulching segment, driven by factors like housing growth, fire prevention and right-of-way clearing.  

Interest in small compact track loaders and excavators will also continue. With their ability to work in tighter areas and boost productivity in what otherwise might require more manpower, the class of equipment is popular for small contractors, rental centers, and weekend warriors. 

– Buck Storlie, product manager, Yanmar Compact Equipment North America

There are major advantages for landscape maintenance companies that invest in battery-powered equipment. We will continue to leverage our extensive background in battery-powered technology to provide game-changing solutions for the landscape maintenance professional.

– Tony Buxton, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

With the re-alignment of housing market and the equipment supply that market will require as a result, we’re experiencing and projecting growth within this sector for the next three to four years. We see this throughout North America, with the mid-Atlantic and southeast regions leading the way through the end of the year.

– John Vranches, division sales manager – eastern U.S. / Canada, Takeuchi

The market will remain strong as manufacturers work diligently to manage shortages in the supply chain and fulfill pent-up demand in the marketplace. This will not be resolved overnight; however, we see the situation continuing to improve as we move forward.

– Jamie Briggs, director of marketing, Exmark

Perseverance and innovation are two things that come to mind that have been, and will continue to be, important for the industry. This applies to the industry operators, as well as the manufacturers, dealers and suppliers. Never stop pushing for the next big move.

– Ryan Cheek, sales director, Lastec

Very strong. There is a tremendous demand for high-quality landscape services in the commercial and retail markets.

– John Janes, marketing and sales support manager, Caterpillar

We anticipate a gradual return to more normal inventory levels and are optimistic that demand will continue to grow. Stihl will continue to invest in our production and distribution networks to meet demand, including hiring hundreds of U.S. workers and ramping up our U.S. manufacturing operations.

– Nick Jiannas, vice president of sales & marketing, Stihl Inc.

[Post updated 8/23/21]

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