Dealers’ Domain

Question: What is your outlook for your business in 2011?

On the second day of business of the New Year, any forecast I make would be based on intangibles.
Having said that, I am willing to toss some engine entrails (connecting rods, timing gears, a valve or two) on the shop floor and attempt to devine the future. Here it goes.
In our area, the amount of disposable income in the hands of the consumer has not changed appreciably in the last five years. The “Great Recession” that has negatively affected our business is primarily due to a loss of consumer confidence and not a lack of funds.
Through the last two years, consumers have been passengers, aboard a ship without a captain, burning up precious fuel, while heading in the wrong direction, apparently oblivious to their desires for a specific destination or anchorage. Things were out of control.
Until that perception changed, we could not expect our business climate to change.
However, the outcome of the November election, the extension of the tax cuts, and the failure of the huge spending bill at the end of the year, have all nudged consumer confidence upward. Our December numbers were some of the best in several years.
One good month and a couple of business days don’t make a trend. But our customers have money in their pockets, and I think are encouraged enough with the current political trend to start spending again.
The economists are predicting a growth of about 3 percent in 2011. I think they are low. I believe that 2011, while not an explosive year, will be the year that marks the end of this recession for retailers like you and me.
I still need to clear out some inventory, drop a product category, and establish a new line. So, this will still be a challenging business environment. However, my engine entrails indicate that 2011 is going to be a breakout year. We won’t get back to 2007 levels, but maybe back to 2004 or 2005 levels, and that would be a tremendous improvement over where we have been.
But don’t take my word for it; scatter your own engine parts on the shop floor and see what they say to you.
— Roger Zerkle
Flat Rock, Ill.

2010 was fast and furious in the beginning and in the middle of the year. The tail end was terrible. We have no snow, so snow equipment sales were almost non-existent. With that said, our overall sales were up 10 percent in 2010. I think going into 2011, we have to stay positive. I hope the lawn and garden side will stay the same. I do not look for a big increase. I think parts and service will continue to increase. What will be our big question mark is compact tractor sales. I feel these will depend on our programs, whether we are competitive or not. Our main goal will be to grab every sale that comes through our doors.
— John P. Moon
Moon’s Farm-Yard Center, Inc.
Ulysses, Pa.

Our economy here in Cleveland and Chattanooga is doing well with all the new industries coming in. Therefore, I believe 2011 in our area will be good if the weather cooperates. I expect the parts and repair business will continue to grow as it did in 2010. I also expect wholegood sales will be strong again on the homeowner side. I believe we will see another flat year in commercial sales. The only thing that might change that is the fact it’s been flat for about 3 years now, so maybe we will finally see landscapers upgrading their equipment instead of repairing. I expect handheld equipment to be slightly up. Sales on handheld equipment usually comes in 3- to 4-year cycles, and we are in a 3-year flat- to slightly-increase cycle. If the cycles repeat themselves, I feel like this year will be good for handheld sales. In conclusion, I feel good about 2011, and I expect to see a 4- to 5-percent increase in business. Keep your fingers crossed for timely rain. Weather will have a bigger impact in my business rather than the economy.
— David Vassey
Vassey Lawn & Garden Centers
Cleveland, Tenn.

I think 2011 will be another up year. 2010 for me was a good growth year, and our underperforming stores of 2009 turned back around with good growth and hit records. Best-ever parts and service in all stores. Best Kubota/Hustler/Stihl sales year ever ALL stores. I think some manufacturers, as well as some dealers learned how to change with the times and adapt to what THE CUSTOMER WANTS. I feel very positive that 2011 will be a growth year if you’re prepared and want to grow.
The recession has taught us how to conserve and do more with less; the worst part is I will pay a lot of taxes this year.
— Tom Rigg, president
Rigg’s Outdoor Power Equipment
Northwest Indiana

If 2011 will stay as it has already started, then I feel that it will be pretty close to last year. Of course I pray it’s better. I’m stocking up for a good year and getting ready to go. Will I change anything this coming year? Not sure — each day is a new day. The rising fuel costs for sure will affect me this year and the years to come.
— Tony Nation
Nation’s Small Engine, Inc.
Hot Springs, Ark.

Equipment purchases and even our rental business have been slow for the last 3 years. Homeowners have put purchases and projects on hold. Last fall, we started seeing activity again. I expect this activity to continue to expand this spring.
— Rob Leiser
Leiser’s Rental & Sales
Easton, Pa.

So far, spring looks okay. My concern is what our government is going to allow the price of gas to do, where they’re going to allow the price of gas to go. If the price of gas goes up, we’ll see 2008 again. Nobody can quit driving, so it takes all of the money out of their pockets and they don’t spend it on anything. We’ve got rain so far this year, so we should have a decent year in that respect. People have got to keep mowing their grass and their weeds and the things of that nature, but gas is going to be the big thing in my opinion. It’s going to suck the extra money out of people’s pockets.
— Phil Babcock
E.G. Babcock Co.
Fresno, Calif.

My prospects for increased business are certain. After repairing 155 snowblowers so far this winter (It’s now February 12.), I sense my exposure in the region has increased. I find customers passing up other repair shops to come to my humble place.
More and more prospective customers research the Web for small-engine repair. My uncluttered Web site encourages them to call. My Website address appears in my YellowPage and YellowBook ads, which makes it stand out compared to the neighboring less-informative sites.
— Robert C. Snyder
Hudson Mower Doctor
Hudson, Wis.

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