Australia’s weather has been anything but predictable and the drought has had a major impact on mowing activities across the country. Luckily, some areas have received huge downpours of rain since summer so hopefully things are looking up for commercial lawn mowing business in 2020.
Whether you’re in the market for a new mower or own a commercial lawn mowing business, you’ll find useful insights from mower professionals below. From most frequently asked questions about zero turn mowers to what the outlook for the mower market is for 2020, we’ve got all the answers covered.
We spoke to our SCAG dealers to find out what trends they’ve seen this year so far and what they predict is in store for the year ahead.
Note – interviews were conducted in February 2020 before the COVID-19 outbreak
Key trends in 2020:
- Zero turn mowers are selling well and people are willing to pay for quality
- Facebook is useful for customers to find more information and pricing but actual sales are better on the business’ website
- Drought and the economy have made the biggest impact on mower sales
- Safety and operational questions are the most commonly asked about zero turn mowers
- The variance in quality is bigger than it has ever been, ensure you research in detail more than ever before.
What general trends are you seeing in regard to ride on mowers at the moment?
Port Mower Centre, David Lewis: Because of the drought mowers are not selling as well. Trends seem to be towards ZTR mowers but there is still the sticker shock problem. I lost a sale because the customer could not justify the price difference with a Toro unit, even though we know they are an inferior unit. Client couldn’t get past the sticker shock.
Ulladulla Mowers, Scott Osborne: People either buy very cheap brands/models or they go top of the line. Middle of the road models aren’t selling. So popular items are pressed decks and Husky lawn tractors while Toro Fab decks aren’t doing well. 90% of people also buy a mulch kit.
Warragul Forest and Garden, Elijah Chatelier: An increase in questions about safety.
Albury Engineering & Mower Service, Dean Quinlivan: It’s very quiet due to poor rainfall. The bigger mowers are starting to become more popular.
Bannockburn Mowers, John Troy: People are starting to see zero turn mowers as the new and improved mower.
Rocky River Ag Services, Lynton Smart: It’s a very slow market at the moment as there hasn’t been any rain in the area so no grass to mow, however more people are looking at zero turn mowers.
Haeuslers Shepparton, Mathew Cucinotta: Due to lack of rain and confidence in the rural sector, smaller units make up more of the mower sales. There seem to be less jobs for residential-based commercial contractors.
Warragul Forest & Garden, Nicki Kimm: Sales are up due to unusually high rainfall. People are happy to pay a little more for quality.
Rosebud Mowers and Chainsaws, William Harford: Zero turn mower sales are up.
South Coast Outdoor Products, Geoff Newton: Our biggest market at the moment is fabricated deck on tractor mowers, but certainly there’s a push for zero turn mower products in the right conditions.
Stihl Shop Frankston, Aaron Collard: More customers willing to try zero turn ride on mowers.
Harris Equipment Repairs, Mark Harris: More customers willing to try zero turn ride on mowers.
Mid Coast Mowers – Taree, Gavan Pereira: People are interested in larger & stronger mowers.
Cooroyoutdoor Power, Aaron Bedward: People are looking for quality, not just price.
Capital Tools Sales & Service, Dane Graham: There’s been a slight increase in sales and enquiries.
Raleigh Mowers, Jak Garrad: A move to larger time saving units.
Morton’s Machinery, Mark Morton: In our area where bigger blocks are getting subdivided, enquiries on larger machines are getting fewer as there are dealers in the outer suburbs.
What is the most common question you get from customers about zero turn mowers?
David Lewis: How hard are they to operate?
Scott Osborne: Is the mower fine on slopes? Can I tow a trailer?
Elijah Chatelier: Why should I buy a zero turn over a tractor mower?
Dean Quinlivan: What is the difference between a zero turn and a tractor mower?
John Troy: How do you operate it?
Lynton Smart: is it a 1 hand or 2 hand operation? Is there a steering wheel option?
Mathew Cucinotta: How fast does it cut the grass? Can I attach a grass catcher?
Nicki Kimm: Can I steer it one-handed? Does it have brakes?
William Harford: Are they difficult to operate?
Geoff Newton: How much are they?
Aaron Collard: Is there a 42-inch cut?
Mark Harris: How hard is it to drive a zero turn mower? Is it safe?
Gavan Pereira: Is it safe to ride on slopes?
Aaron Bedward: Are they good in the wet and on slopes?
Dane Graham: N/A
Jak Garrad: What makes your brand better than other competitors?
Mark Morton: How easy are they to operate?
What factors do you think will impact mower sales this year?
David Lewis: With us it is the drought factor. Can’t get past this yet.
Scott Osborne: Drought and the economy.
Elijah Chatelier: In our region we have had substantial rainfall so we believe we will have a strong start to the year. Short term concerns may be the economy pending the outcome of coronavirus and its effect on Australia.
Dean Quinlivan: Rainfall and the economy.
John Troy: Weather. Just got through the bushfire season and now experiencing rain downpours.
Lynton Smart: Low rainfall over the last few years.
Mathew Cucinotta: Weather and pricing of Hustlers Raptor mowers.
Nicki Kimm: Weather is in our favour for good sales but pricing can inhibit sales when the economy is down.
William Harford: The economy.
Geoff Newton: At the moment, a possible recession. Last year was definitely drought as we all know.
Aaron Collard: Pricing plays a big part due to all the competitors out there. SCAG is better, however pricing is a big part in why customers choose a Toro over SCAG.
Mark Harris: The drought, which has been the worst for some time so a lot of people still aren’t in a very good financial position.
Gavan Pereira: Rainfall and the economy.
Aaron Bedward: Price.
Dane Graham: Definitely the weather.
Jak Garrad: Drought was a major factor earlier in the season. Now economic factors may play a part but only time will tell.
Mark Morton: In our area, I would imagine the same answer to the general trends.
What is your overall outlook with regard to the ride-on mower market in 2020?
David Lewis: We have been in reduced mower usage for the past three years. Many clients have not mowed their yards for 8 or more months which isn’t conducive to mower sales.
Scott Osborne: I’m looking forward to higher sales once the drought breaks. Having finances is a massive plus to upselling.
Elijah Chatelier: Fantastic. WFG is poised to have a go with new staff on deck and a renewed focus on marketing and customer relations which includes follow up on sales leads.
Dean Quinlivan: It’s quiet at this point in time but will hopefully pick up by the end of the year if we have a good winter.
John Troy: Hoping to grow the trend of zero turn vs tractor mowers.
Lynton Smart: I think sales will be down in our area unless we get some good rain.
Mathew Cucinotta: We’ll just see what happens. No point projecting the future as we are in the hands of Mother Nature.
Nicki Kimm: We are looking at a positive year due to the weather in Gippsland.
William Harford: I think we will hit a low point in the economy and it will be a very slow uptake with the 2020-2021 season.
Geoff Newton: Unknown, we will be conservative with stock.
Aaron Collard: Strong.
Mark Harris: Depending on the weather and rain in our area we could still have a good year. The interest in mowers is still there, it’s just a matter of recovering from a long hard drought season.
Gavan Pereira: Better than 2019 but depends on continued rainfall.
Aaron Bedward: The Australian dollar isn’t helping but having financial options is what a lot of people are looking for in the 3-5 year forecast.
Dane Graham: Cautious, but if the drought breaks we’re optimistic.
Jak Garrad: Positive.
Mark Morton: If we keep getting this weather, I think it will be good.
Are you seeing a spike in your digital marketing in your region? If so, which platform is the most popular?
David Lewis: Digital marketing is everywhere! We must be able to direct clients to the products they are interested in. We have tried Facebook but I am not convinced this works for power equipment. Our website gets responses and I see this as probably the best platform.
Scott Osborne: We use Facebook a lot! We get a lot of responses on Facebook, however it rarely leads to new sales. We also use Instagram with poor returns.
Elijah Chatelier: Yes, Facebook. It’s been interesting to observe the second-hand market opening up and Facebook marketplace is the preferred place for purchases.
Dean Quinlivan: Facebook is quite popular. Also Google and websites in general.
John Troy: Not really. Facebook if anything.
Lynton Smart: Yes, more people are definitely using digital media. We find that websites and social media are working the best.
Mathew Cucinotta: No.
Nicki Kimm: Facebook is a fantastic marketing tool.
William Harford: Yes, Facebook and Instagram.
Geoff Newton: Yes, a lot of zero turn mower brands advertise on Facebook.
Aaron Collard: Yes, Facebook and Gumtree advertisements.
Mark Harris: Many people will go online to look for information but mainly for pricing.
Gavan Pereira: Yes, Facebook.
Aaron Bedward: I think the best marketing is on tv and radio as a lot of people get hacked on digital platforms.
Dane Graham: N/A
Jak Garrad: Not locally.
Mark Morton: No.
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