Power equipment sales

Grounds-care analysts are optimistic that shipments of commercial products will increase in 1997, 1998 and through the end of the decade. In its Power Lawn & Garden Equipment study, the Freedonia Group determined that manufacturers' shipments of lawn and garden equipment will rise more than 4 percent per year to nearly $8.6 billion in 2000 (see Table 1). Shipments of commercial lawn and garden equipment alone will increase 6.4 percent annually, climbing to nearly $1.5 billion by the end of the decade. New product introductions and a favorable export market will be the driving force behind these increases. In addition, a shifting product mix toward higher-priced equipment will drive dollars up. The study also predicts that pricing gains will spur advances, based on the use of higher powered and more expensive engines.

Commercial products are constructed primarily of steel, which is more expensive than plastic. Steel offers greater durability and supports the larger structure and engines required by commercial end-users. Overall, commercial products compete on three main factors: price, durability and performance. Service and reputation also are important concerns in the golf-course and professional lawn-care markets, where reliability and quality are essential.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, in its Economic Forecast for the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry, forecasts shipment increases for model years 1997 and 1998 of walk-behind mowers, front-engine riding mowers, riding garden tractors and tillers. Shipments of rear-engine riding mowers have been on the decline--down 27 percent in 1996--and, according to the projections, additional decreases for 1997 and 1998 could total 16.6 percent. Conversely, shipments of riding and walk-behind rotary turf mowers continue to rise steadily, with 1996 increases of 8.5 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively (for related information, see Grounds Maintenance, May 1997, page 10). Overall, however, turf and grounds mowers continue to dominate the market of commercial lawn and garden equipment, with 1995 shipments reaching $642 million or 59 percent of the market.

On the lighter side, the Portable Power Equipment Manufacturers Association (PPEMA) reports shipment increases in all hand-held gasoline-powered equipment for 1996 except hedge trimmers, which were down 8.3 percent (see Table 2). PPEMA, however, does anticipate increases for 1997 for all types including hedge trimmers. As a total category, shipments of trimmers, brushcutters and hand-held blowers increased 7 percent over 1995, and if the projections are correct, they will rise another 7 percent in 1997.

Source: The Freedonia Group Inc. (Cleveland); Portable Power Equipment Manufacturers Association (Bethesda, Md.); Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Inc. (Old Town Alexandria, Va.).

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