Grasshopper president offers his outlook on OPE industry





1. What is new and exciting about your organization heading into 2009?

The Grasshopper Company is reasonably encouraged about the coming year. We have new dealers joining our sales and service network, our international distribution ties are strong, and we have new products to improve the mowing capabilities of our end users. We are excited to have an expanding dealer base as we continue to sell our product exclusively through independent sales and servicing dealers, and they are looking for a sole long-term partner. Grasshopper is here today, here tomorrow. The Grasshopper Company is not just another supplier, but stands alongside the dealer with representatives who serve as a resource in providing productive equipment to the ultimate customer. Our goal is to work with dealers who will adopt the same stance with the end user, helping them find the best equipment to make their jobs easier.

2. What is your organization doing to weather the tough economic climate, and what should OPE dealers do?

As we talk with our dealers about their challenges and opportunities in the coming year, we find that many are using this slow period to reinvest in their business by sprucing up and expanding showrooms, spend time on technical training, plan their spring advertising and promotions, and generally get prepared for the mowing season. The weather, as well as the economy, will have a great deal to do with the way the actual season progresses. We are encouraging dealers to be more deliberate in following leads, to keep in touch with present customers, and to expend more effort and thought in developing business rather than waiting for it to walk through the door.

3. What are the three biggest challenges that OPE dealers will face in the next two years, and how should they address them?

Tight credit, overstocked inventory and the related consequence of carry-over inventory can combine to become a burden to the dealer. And it doesn’t have to be your overstock that causes trouble. Often, it is the dealer down the block who suddenly decides to unload his abundance of dated equipment at fire sale prices and depresses the market for those who planned better. The challenge is to order wisely, and to sell customers not only on your equipment but on your worth as a servicing dealer who continues to care about the customer after the initial sale. Even with the unrelenting gloom in the media, and acknowledging the reality of rising unemployment, there are many consumers, as well as commercial operators and facilities who are doing quite well and still need your equipment and your service. Know who they are, and cultivate their business. 

4. What are the hottest trends in the OPE industry today, and which new trends will emerge over the next five years?

We’re seeing a real trend to rear discharge and a strong response to our new 4X rear-discharge M1 deck design, especially from the contractor and governmental segments of the market. Another developing trend is the interest in alternative fuels and fuel efficiency by all means, which underscores the need for and the strong trend to efficient, timesaving equipment.

5. What was the OPE industry’s biggest story in 2008, and what will be its biggest story in 2009?

Fuel prices and financial fallout were big impact stories in 2008. Fuel prices impact everyone, but especially contractors and government entities. Now that fuel prices have stabilized, this may have a moderating effect. At The Grasshopper Company, our big story in 2009 is the 40th anniversary of beginning Grasshopper mower production. It started as a way to even out our seasonal manufacturing ups and downs of grain dryer and agricultural product production. And the rest, as they say, is history.

6. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry heading into 2009 and beyond?

Yogi Berra has a saying that, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”  Plan for the worst, and prepare for the best. Having been in manufacturing for over 50 years, we have weathered many recessions and economic downturns.

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