For insight into outdoor power equipment trends, Landscape Business, sister production to SportsField Management, recently reached out to representatives from equipment manufacturers throughout the outdoor power equipment industry. The following is part 2 of the excerpt from that effort, and responses are presented here in the order in which they were received.

LB: How has COVID-19 impacted design, production and sales of commercial outdoor power equipment, and/or how professionals are approaching their outdoor power equipment needs and decisions in 2020?

Thankfully, the landscape industry has largely been deemed essential throughout North America, and has largely continued to operate uninterrupted. However, job losses will impact outsourcing of landscaping, and shutdowns of certain assets – like municipal golf courses and sports turf assets – are causing some uncertainty in the industry that are causing some landscapers, municipalities and sports complexes to be somewhat measured about their purchasing, but remain cautiously optimistic.

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– Pierre Pereira, director of sales, N.A. at Billy Goat

COVID-19 has added a lot of challenges in our industry. We were certainly not immune to that. Our dealers had to shut down or change their operating procedures to accommodate for the virus, while taking care of their customers. Contrary to what we thought would happen, Steiner has seen an increase in sales in 2020. The increase in sales has allowed us to invest more into our design and production teams to become more efficient internally. We have had to increase production to keep up with the market demand. Many homeowners, municipalities, and commercial locations are also taking this time to remodel and work on their landscape while they have less foot traffic. Lawn and landscape professionals are investing in more diverse equipment in an effort to better serve their customers and grow their business. All the while, they have adapted to contactless interactions and the use of protective gear to keep their customers and crews safe. Hats off to the professional lawn and landscape teams across the country that have worked through this difficult time and continued to service their customers!

– Sam Williamson, a regional sales manager for Steiner, a Doosan Bobcat brand.

There is no denying that COVID-19 impacted our industry. We saw a busy spring selling season slow down. Time had to be spent regrouping and helping our dealers navigate how they could sell if they couldn’t be open. As time went on, we saw our dealer network thrive – they proved they could improvise and overcome. There was a learning curve with understanding the new normal, but, in the end, they could still be there for their customers. 

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Hustler Turf Equipment

COVID-19 has impacted the way we do business, just like so many other organizations. Working from home has allowed our design of commercial outdoor power equipment to continue, and in some ways we have become more efficient. While our production facility was closed briefly, we have rebounded, and now production is stronger than our initial expectations. Sales, although initially lower due to closed dealerships, have grown since markets have reopened. 

Right when the pandemic warnings started, as we were gearing up for the spring season, the partial shutdowns began, which affected the spring aeration season and its corresponding sales for both ownership and rental channels. However, we are now witnessing improved growth from the previous year with the industry expecting to see a strong fall aeration season.

While you can’t replace visiting your customers in person, COVID-19 has kept us at home, which has allowed us to reach out to our customers more frequently. It has reminded us that we are all in this together.

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, BOB-CAT and Ryan

From my point of view, it seems the effects aren’t significant. Construction and landscaping must go on. Though people are nervous, it seems like many are still moving forward with home improvement and landscaping projects. Of course, outdoor applications have the added benefit of existing an open-air environment.

– Buck Storlie, ASV product line manager

COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives, but we are fortunate that commercial landscaping has remained strong throughout the pandemic. Now, more than ever, the world is moving outdoors, and the landscape industry plays a key role in maintaining those spaces. While, in general, the industry hasn’t slowed down, landscapers are closely evaluating their needs before making business decisions, such as purchasing a new piece of equipment.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

Continuing on the battery front, with so many people staying at home due to COVID-19, the noise-mitigation offered on battery solutions is more important than ever, so landscape contractors can operate during any time of the day without disturbing their customers. Once COVID-19 begins to ease up, this will also be a major benefit for operating around other commercial properties or schools.

– Mitch Hoffman, marketing manager at Toro

COVID-19 has created challenges with the sale of commercial power equipment, because conducting demonstrations and face-to-face training are more difficult in this environment. We are still following the same development processes we have in the past, with a focus on extensive in-field testing of our product as we go through the development life cycle. While we’ve had to be flexible, we’re confident in our production plan and dealer commitment.

– Josh Sooy, business segment director, professional products, Cub Cadet

While Honda Power Equipment was generally optimistic about 2020 at the beginning of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic presented operational challenges for the business, particularly during March and April. Similarly, demand for outdoor products among landscape professionals waned during late spring as many businesses were faced with an uncertain economy and stay-at-home orders for non-essential businesses. However, as the economy began reopening and product production returned to more regular operations, Honda Power Equipment experienced strong gains for a number of its outdoor power products, marine outboards, and general-purpose engine lines. At the peak of the summer season in the U.S., landscape professionals continued to rely on Honda products more than ever, especially in June and July — evidenced by robust sales of lawn mowers, trimmers, tillers, pumps and inverter generators. The company even reported record snow blower sales, attributed to robust pre-season orders and immediate delivery of product.

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

COVID-19 has slightly affected the sales process within a dealer. To help ensure staff and customers are safe, we’ve seen dealers adapt new policies and process, such as curbside pickup, methods of social distancing and offering masks.

– John Powers, director of product marketing, Echo, Inc.

Our industry professionals are increasingly selective of the equipment they’re purchasing, meaning they’re ensuring they have the right equipment for the application.

More than ever, they’re using online media for information, whether that’s OEM websites, influencers via social media, industry forums or resources like Landscape Business. As a result, they’re more informed when they get to the dealer. So, whether they’re looking to increase productivity through larger decks and/or higher horsepower, or are focusing on increased operational efficiency, with fuel-injected machines and/or low maintenance requirements, customers arrive at the dealership with more information. As a result, they can better consult with their dealer on the best equipment for their applications. 

– Lenny Mangnall, Exmark product manager

Our Stihl manufacturing facility in the U.S. remains operational, and while we have seen some impacts to our supply chain, we continue to provide Stihl dealers the products and services they need to support their customers.

Over the past few months/weeks, we have seen encouraging sales activity and we have heard from dealers and landscapers that business has remained steady, if not above expectations. That being said, no one knows where the economy is headed as the potential effects of COVID have not been fully realized.

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

To help our customers during this uncertain time, Kioti launched a variety of sales and financing programs. The pandemic has not only expedited the shift of residents from cities to suburban and rural areas, but also allowed time for property owners to tackle their own landscaping needs, increasing the demand for equipment. People are finding whatever way they can to get outdoors and stay busy while staying safe. 

Due to this shift in time spent at home, landscaping professionals have been impacted in various ways. Landscaping professionals split their time between servicing their equipment, making sure it will last, and landscaping work. During the current climate, attention to detail in landscaping work has escalated significantly. With homeowners being present and vigilant as their property is being worked on, pristine work is more critical than ever. 

– Steve Cathey, Kioti Tractor territory manager – Kansas, Oklahoma, and Eastern Texas

LB: What is your outlook for the commercial outdoor power equipment market for the remainder of 2020 and beyond?

Flat in 2020 with a return to GDP + growth rates as markets return to normalcy in the following years.

– Pierre Pereira, director of sales, N.A. at Billy Goat

We believe the rest of 2020 will continue to be a strong year for the OPE market. We believe our industry has learned a lot this year regarding how we react to the world market and adapt to changing work requirements. It is the job of manufacturers to design and produce strong, reliable and innovative products. These innovations will hopefully lead to aiding professional landscapers and mowers to grow their business in years to come. We see a lot of opportunity for growth and development for the OPE market that will continue for years to come. We are proud to be a part of the outdoor power equipment market, and greatly appreciate the hard work and support of all of its members.

– Sam Williamson, a regional sales manager for Steiner, a Doosan Bobcat brand.

I believe the remainder of the year will see increased strength for the outdoor power equipment market. We’re continuing to see timely rain in many areas, extending the summer season, and seeing demand for mowers throughout the U.S. For the most part, there is a positive outlook within the industry, and people are continuing to persevere. The trend toward updating outdoor living space is gaining momentum as people spend more time at home.  

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Hustler Turf Equipment

The commercial outlook is very promising going forward. We expect to exceed last year’s market volume, even with partial closings across the country, throughout 2020. And, beyond that, we are planning for continued growth, as the turf industry is a resilient group, just like our great nation. 

The turf market is a tough, steadfast industry, and together we are all stronger.

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, BOB-CAT and Ryan

As advancements in battery, motor, and electronic technologies continue, you are going to see a bigger shift from gas to electric (due to increases in power and runtime). Milwaukee’s leadership in battery-powered technology puts us at an advantage when it comes to continuing to stay in front of these advancements.

– Tony Buxton, senior product manager for Milwaukee Tool

I see the commercial outdoor power equipment market steady to improving for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. 

– Buck Storlie, ASV product line manager

This is a resilient industry, and despite the challenges landscapers have faced this year, we are optimistic about the future. Landscaping has been recognized as an essential industry and many homeowners are focused on improving their properties, so there is a lot of opportunity for landscape professionals now and in the future.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

Our outlook for the commercial outdoor power equipment market is very positive and promising. Grass is continuing to grow, and many property owners are taking a stronger look at their lawns and partnering with professionals to beautify their landscapes and maintain them throughout the season.

– Mitch Hoffman, marketing manager at Toro

The use of vacuum excavators is growing in the lawn and landscape market. The diversity of jobs that vacuum excavators can accomplish gives them a valuable role on a variety of jobs and in many different industries.

– Chapman Hancock, Ditch Witch vacuum excavation product manager

There is potential for a strong fall this year, as many purchase decisions were put off last spring. As the world gets more clarity on COVID-19, we expect sales to recover in 2021 since some fleets will be past due for replacement.

– Josh Sooy, business segment director, professional products, Cub Cadet

Recent indicators point to 2020 remaining strong for the outdoor power equipment market, especially as work-from-home trends are creating more demand for commercial hires. For 2021, Honda Power Equipment is hopeful trends lean increasingly more toward “return to normal” while continuing to adhere to safe operational practices. Currently, the leading indicators from the industry and retailers are that 2020 will be a good year, overall, for commercial outdoor power equipment market.

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

The market continues to grow in virtually all segments, and we are excited to see what 2021 has to offer.

– John Powers, director of product marketing, Echo, Inc.

Much like with any economic downturn, there was some initial pull back. But, in the end, neither the economy nor COVID-19 can keep the grass from growing. As a result, landscape professionals’ services will continue to be very much in demand.

Additionally, with the extra time at home, many families have invested in their outdoor spaces, and either adopted or enhanced their sense of pride with their yard and landscaping. These spaces will require time to upkeep going forward – time homeowners may lack as they return to their physical job locations.

With that in mind, our outlook for the future is extremely positive and we look forward to continuing to be the choice that landscape professionals most often turn to.

– Lenny Mangnall, Exmark product manager

There’s no doubt that the industry will continue to grow and expand, and Bobcat Company will continue to look at opportunities to provide customers efficient, reliable solutions as they grow along with it. That includes looking at our comprehensive equipment lineup to identify areas we can grow, areas we can improve and, of course, listening to customer needs to continue exploring new innovations. 

– Jason Boerger, marketing manager – excavators, Bobcat Company

I think what we can take away from this year is that the landscaping industry is resilient and, as an essential business, will continue to flourish despite fluctuations in the market, unpredictable weather and even a global pandemic.

I encourage landscapers to remain innovative in their service offerings, stay connected with their network of suppliers, and continue to manage their business in a way that allows them to ride out any storm.

While the application of robotic and connected products is still developing in the industry, these innovations will be significant to landscapers over the next five years. 

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

Between spring and fall, retail typically begins to slow down. As sales begin to pick up in the fall, we will likely see more commercial equipment sales from property owners and landscaping professionals. Property owners will likely continue to take on outdoor projects in 2020 and invest in equipment to combat the “virtual fatigue.” Because of this, landscaping professionals will need to be strategic with pricing and offerings to keep the business demand. 

– Steve Cathey, Kioti Tractor territory manager – Kansas, Oklahoma, and Eastern Texas

For the full Equipment Trends editorial coverage, visit Landscape-Business.com.

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