2019 Industry Forecasts: Part 2

Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) magazine, sister publication to Landscape Business, recently asked OPE industry leaders to share their insights into the year to come. The following is excerpted from Part 2 of the Industry Forecasts:







  1. What is new with your company or organization?

Cappucci: Schiller Grounds Care, Inc., continues to introduce new products aimed to satisfy the needs of the marketplace, and offer our dealers exciting new sales opportunities. Our Bob-Cat brand just launched a new generation of Bob-Cat mowers built with the commercial cutter in mind. They offer superior durability and cutting performance, a bolder look, and they’re backed by the best warranty in the industry. Our Little Wonder brand launched a new outdoor vacuum with an extremely compact footprint. The ProVac SI uses the latest serrated steel impeller blade technology to deliver superior suction and shredding capabilities. It has a reduction ratio of 5:1. Finally, we introduced a new Steiner tractor, the 450DX. Similar to our 450 tractor, the new 25-hp. air-cooled Steiner 450DX is the perfect all-around workhorse for consumers who want to mow, blow, plow or dig, but don’t need the weight transfer capabilities of the 450. The 450DX extends the Steiner product line to help our dealers better meet their customers’ needs.


  1. What were the OPE industry’s top stories in 2018, and what do you predict will be the top stories of 2019?

Cappucci: The top stories in 2018 included the continued rollout of lithium-ion-based handheld products and robotics. Additionally, the introduction of smart technology for commercial cutters to use to manage their mowing fleets and businesses more profitably is just beginning to gain a foothold.

I think one of the top stories for 2019 will be how the industry addresses the labor shortages due to the low unemployment numbers coupled with the spotlight on immigration and the H-2B temporary workers visa program. Unprecedented employer interest in the capped program is leaving many companies scrambling to find workers. So, attracting and retaining quality employees and developing products and solutions that help contractors get the most out of their employees will resonate strongly. This is a big focus for us at Schiller Grounds Care.



  1. What will be the OPE industry’s hottest trends in 2019?

Cappucci: Because commercial contractors are going to be faced with serious labor shortages and increased costs in 2019, products and services that offer productivity solutions are going to be increasingly important. As an example, our new Bob-Cat Predator Pro 7000 commercial zero-turn is available with a two-speed transaxle that lets the operator go up to 19 mph in transport. That means he can get to and from the trailer to the cutting job faster, saving valuable time.

Additionally, our new AirFX cutting system with patent-pending Air-Gap baffles improves not only your quality of cut, but your productivity too. Its increased vacuum and accelerated airflow through the baffles allows you to cut faster without worrying about having to double cut.

Products with an enhanced user experience are going to become more important to owner-operators and landscape businesses that want to retain their key employees. As such, comfort and ease of use are going to be more important than ever. For instance, any landscaper who has run a sod cutter knows the toll vibration takes on the operator. The Ryan Jr. sod cutter features ultra-low anti-vibration technology that reduces hand/arm vibration by 75 percent. Ryan Lawnaire walk-behind aerators feature Easy Steer technology, allowing the user to steer the unit without taking the tines out of the ground. The result is higher productivity and less physical stress on the operator.


  1. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry in 2019?

Cappucci: If the weather cooperates, I would expect to see steady industry growth in 2019. Low unemployment, economic optimism, as well as a projected rise in single-family housing and the number of landscaping businesses would support growth for both consumer- and commercial-grade equipment. We continue to see more homes and businesses outsourcing their lawn care, which bodes well for commercial landscapers.








  1. What is new with your company/organization?

Minas: At John Deere, we recently unveiled two new products at the 2018 GIE+EXPO show in Louisville: The M and R Series commercial walk-behind mowers, and the Z994R Diesel ZTrak mower.

The M and R Series commercial walk-behinds feature completely redesigned controls and improved weight distribution, enhancing operator comfort and requiring less effort to raise the front end of the mower. In addition, the R Series offers 8.5 inches of ground clearance, minimizing the interference with curbs and reducing the risk of property damage.

The new Z994R Diesel ZTrak is powered by a three-cylinder, liquid-cooled Final Tier 4 diesel engine. The high-torque, low-emission diesel engine provides power for tough conditions with low vibration and noise levels. To increase productivity, the Z994R is equipped with a single 11.5-U.S.-gallon diesel fuel tank with an easy-to-read fuel gauge, and three seat options, each with adjustable armrests. All seat options feature the ComfortGlide fore/aft suspension that provides up to two inches of fore and aft travel to absorb bumps for enhanced ride quality. The Z994R is also available with the Michelin X Tweel Turf airless radial tires to virtually eliminate flats and increase productivity.


  1. What were the OPE industry’s top stories in 2018, and what do you predict will be the top stories of 2019?

Minas: While we expect stories around profitability and productivity to continue to be of great interest, labor is a top concern for professional landscape contractors. From a manufacturer perspective, it is important that we understand this concern and provide equipment that is intuitive and comfortable. John Deere addressed this need with its recent product introductions. The M and R Series walk-behind mowers offer comfortable controls that were designed based on operator needs.


  1. What will be the OPE industry’s hottest trends in 2019?

Minas: Operator comfort and machine productivity will continue to be trends that will directly impact new product introductions in 2019 throughout the industry.


  1. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry in 2019?

Minas: We have a positive outlook for 2019. Many professional landscapers are expecting to grow their business in the coming year. In addition, our new product offerings have created a lot of excitement within the industry, so we’re looking forward to another successful year!








  1. What is new with your company/organization?

Marchese: We continue to produce and introduce industry-leading innovation within lithium-powered rechargeable outdoor powered equipment. We continue that tradition with the launch of our new lithium residential zero-turns, lithium consumer tractors, and lithium utility vehicles. These launches are new to the industry, and will help our dealer base lead and be successful as the industry continues its transition from gas to rechargeable outdoor power equipment.


  1. What were the OPE industry’s top stories in 2018, and what do you predict will be the top stories of 2019?

Marchese: The major story within the industry in 2018 was the growth of rechargeable outdoor powered equipment. I believe this will continue into 2019. There are more than 500 U.S. cites with some form of noise regulations or outright ban of gas-powered products. Never before has the OPE industry been faced with more external forces effecting change within the industry. These forces include noise regulation, corporate green initiatives, and consumer customers transitioning to rechargeable due to ease of use.


  1. What will be the OPE industry’s hottest trends in 2019?

Marchese: The industry will continue to develop rechargeable tools. I believe, however, that the platforms with high-powered, long-running tools will lead the day. An example of this is our new 82V GBB700 backpack blower that delivers 700 CFM and gas-like runtimes on two 5-amp-hour batteries. I also think that wheeled product will begin to really take off in 2019. We now have commercial zero-turns that will meet landscapers’ needs, and allow them to actually be more productive as they can cut earlier and later due to the reduction in noise.


  1. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry in 2019?

Marchese: I think the outlook is good, as we have strong employment, a good business climate, and great consumer confidence. I think consumers are looking for new solutions within their garden and lawn-maintenance activity – offering our industry great opportunity to bring new products to these customers.








  1. What is new with your company/organization?

Rominger: EDA has introduced a few new things this year. We are partnering with United Equipment Dealers Association in the introduction of a Flat Rate Guide (FRG) for outdoor power equipment dealers. Bob Clements is also involved in the development of this industry-leading guide to assist dealers in more efficient and profit-centered operation of their service shop. Momentum for the FRG is picking up as more business system providers add this to the dealer operating systems.

EDA has also been more active with outdoor power equipment manufacturers in relationships with their dealers. We have reviewed a new contract for the dealers of major outdoor equipment manufacturers, and given the dealers an overview of what is in the new agreement and how it differs from the old agreement. EDA has also made suggested language change to the manufacturers to make the agreement more dealer friendly. Some of these suggestions were accepted, and are now part of the new agreement. Dealer members of EDA and the regional associations benefitted from this legal analysis with free copies of the analysis and the details of the changes. This is a primary example of where membership in the association definitely pays. The legal analysis and discussions cost several thousands of dollars, which individual dealers on their own would be paying. By joining and supporting EDA and the regional associations, the cost is born collectively for the benefit of all members.

EDA has also partnered with Bob Clements on many training offerings with great benefit to dealers. We are working with Bob Clements International to expand the offerings, and have some new and exciting programs in development to assist dealers in effective and profitable operation of their dealerships.

Other programs are currently under review and discussion with news to be released soon.


  1. What were the OPE industry’s top stories in 2018, and what do you predict will be the top stories of 2019?

Rominger: The most recent news of Textron’s ceasing production of the Dixie Chopper and Jacobsen zero-turn mowers should be one of the industries top stories.

This will impact many dealers in the country. It is too early to say how much of an impact it will make. It does take manufacturing capacity away of an already full field of the zero-turn market.

Another top story is the incredible participation by dealers in the EDA “Dealer/Manufacturer Relations Survey,” specifically over the last four years. This survey is becoming a valuable benchmark for both dealers looking for new manufacturers to represent and for manufacturers to effectively gauge their relationship and performance with their dealers in several key areas.

With such a large percentage of millennials entering the residential purchasing stage of life, there will be an increasing demand for outdoor power equipment and other items. However, this group of customers is very unique, and will offer their own set of challenges and opportunities for those dealers who recognize these differences and adjust to take advantage of them.


  1. What will be the OPE industry’s hottest trends in 2019?

Rominger: Battery power will continue to grow and evolve. Dealers need to make certain they align themselves with manufacturers that understand and can support the dealers in providing this type of equipment and technology.

Not a “hot” trend, but the aging of our dealership ownership base will, and is, becoming a factor. There will be coming soon a generational change in the ownership of dealerships as current owners look to retire and sell their businesses. A recent EDA survey found the average age of the owner of an outdoor power equipment dealership to be 58 years old.

The internet will continue to be an impactful player in our industry. Changes relative to the internet and its effect on the selling of equipment and parts will continue. However, I have yet to see service work done via the internet on anything but computers so far.


  1. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry in 2019?

Rominger: The industry outlook is very good. There will be some changes as trade, regulations, immigration and the impact of governmental influences on the local, state and federal level impact manufacturing and selling out of state continue to advance. However, the demand for housing is strong, and this is a key indicator for the OPE industry. The commercial segment of the industry continues to grow as property ownership increases. A key factor here is workforce, and that will be the only thing I see that can hold continuing growth in equipment sales. There is no need to buy new or additional equipment if there isn’t anyone to run it.








  1. What is new with your company/organization for 2019?

Bennett: At Husqvarna, we’re very excited about the year ahead. As the only manufacturer that can fill the entire trailer of outdoor power equipment, including robotics and installation, we are focused on providing solutions for every possible application.

[As of] January, we [are] the only manufacturer to offer a robotic mowing solution for every grass type in the U.S. We’re launching the new Automower H-line that can be set to up to 3.6 inches in cutting height. One major launch within this line will be Automower 115H, which will be available through Husqvarna dealers, as well as at Lowe’s across the U.S., as a one-stop solution with professional installation included in the sales price. In order to facilitate this and other initiatives, we have created the Husqvarna Service Corporation, which was designed as a supporting service program that drives channel collaboration to ensure a premium omni-channel experience.

For our commercial zero-turn line, we’re proud to announce that we’re also now partnered with Yamaha – adding to our current partners of Kawasaki, Kohler and Briggs – and, [as of] January, you [are] able to order our Z500 series with their engines.

2019 will also see a large focus on forestry and tree care products. We’re re-launching our professional 70cc and 50cc chain saw platforms with several new saws, including the acclaimed 572XP. We are also adding our lightest tree care saw to date and releasing a brand-new line of arborist accessories.

Fleet Services, our revolutionary Cloud-based system, is also launching in early 2019. It connects lawn and tree care operators and their entire fleet of machines, including robotics, directly to an online portal or mobile app via Bluetooth, enabling professionals to have insights into their operations at their fingertips.


  1. What were the OPE industry’s top stories in 2018, and what do you predict they will be in 2019?

Bennett: Sustainability, robotics and connectivity continued to be a growing conversation throughout 2018, but we definitely saw increased adoption rates and acceptance. The general consumer trends in those directions are directly reflected in the commercial lawn care industry as the market changes and customers are asking for these things. We paid special attention to those early conversations, and created products and upgraded others to include those major connectivity aspects we know are so sought out. That includes our Automower robotic lawn mower models with Amazon Alexa functionality and Bluetooth connectivity, along with our connected tractor models, and, of course, our Fleet Services that allow landscapers to monitor and manage all their equipment – where they are, servicing schedules, productivity etc.

We also really started to see the shift toward robotics happen in the commercial industry. Two years ago, there was still a lot of hesitation, but businesses are now really starting to realize that robotics can provide a real solution to labor and productivity issues.


  1. What will be the OPE industry’s hottest trends in 2019?

Bennett: Battery power, connectivity and robotics solutions are the trends that we will continue to see in 2019. Robotics is a big flagship for us and with the launch of a truly commercial solution with our Automower 550/550H, we will see a much broader adoption of the technology in our industry. The new 115H, sold at Lowes with an installation included through the Husqvarna Service Corporation, will offer consumers a robotic solution unique in the industry. Battery-powered products will continue to have a top trend spot with more and more consumers and professionals using them and manufacturers continuing to innovate. Husqvarna is proud to be a contributor of this positive trend, and be leader in the charge toward sustainability in outdoor power equipment. With that said, connectivity will also be a huge trend in 2019. As technology continues to be at the forefront for consumers and how they make purchases, the industry will see a lot more products with those features starting with everyday consumers –  which will then push more and more professionals and landowners toward that trend as well.


  1. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry in 2019?

Bennett: Husqvarna is incredibly optimistic about the coming year and what’s in store for the industry. 2019 will show even further advancements and integration with technology and innovation that will drive positive outcomes for our entire industry.








  1. What is new with your company/organization?

Kiser: We’ve had a very successful 2018. This October we held another record-breaking GIE+EXPO, bringing more than 24,000 dealers, distributors, landscapers, hardscapers, and exhibitors to Louisville for the industry’s largest trade show. At this latest show, we held Mutt Madness, a rescue dog adoption event held in partnership with OPEI’s TurfMutt and the Kentucky Humane Society, in Freedom Hall. Ultimately, we found homes for 11 dogs, and are planning to expand the event this fall.

At the show, we launched a rebrand of our ethanol education campaign in partnership with the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The campaign reminds dealers, landscapers, and consumers to “Protect Your Power” and always use the correct fuel in their outdoor power equipment, motorcycles, UTVs, snowmobiles and other off-road equipment. President Trump late last year instructed the EPA to allow year-round sales of E15 gasoline, which means E15 may become a permanent fuel option available at mass retail.

We continue to remind the industry, and encourage dealers to remind their customers, that outdoor power equipment isn’t designed, built or warranted to run on E15 or higher-level ethanol blends, and using them in OPE may damage or destroy equipment.

Late last year, we welcomed the International Light Vehicle Transportation Association (ILTVA) into our operations. The outdoor power equipment industry continues to evolve, and we’re seeing UTVs and other outdoor power vehicles playing more important roles in public safety, campus security, and planned residential developments. We’re excited to have them at the table and engaged in our standards development efforts and market statistics program.

We also continue to be active in the education space. Our TurfMutt education platform is partnered with Scholastic, the world’s largest education curriculum developer, to provide education materials to teachers across the country. So far, we’ve reached 68 million kids, teachers and families through our work together, and we’re expanding the program into middle schools.

Further, TurfMutt continues to be an education partner in the global Learning Lab of the U.S. Green Building Council – the group responsible for LEED building certifications. And for four years TurfMutt has sponsored Saturday-morning education and information programming on network television to highlight the importance of the managed living landscape to pets and families – three seasons on CBS’s “Lucky Dog” and this year on “Ready, Set, Pet” on the CW.


2. What were the OPE industry’s top stories in 2018, and what do you predict will be the top stories of 2019?

Kiser: With the Trump Administration’s announcement approving year-round sales of E15, we could see higher-ethanol blends available at mass retail in the coming year. This could pose a real challenge for anyone using outdoor power equipment, snowmobiles, UTVs and other off-road equipment that isn’t designed, built or warranted for it.

With unemployment at record lows, labor shortages continue to present real challenges for dealers and retailers, as well as professional landscape contractors. OPEI remains engaged with our partners in diverse industries to develop solutions for those groups.

Also, California’s ongoing emissions regulations are putting significant pressure on the use of internal combustion engines in the state. This will likely result in diverse power source product offerings in the state. Like the auto industry, California’s regulations in the space are likely to affect regulations in the national marketplace.


3. What will be the OPE industry’s hottest trends in 2019?

Kiser: We saw this at GIE+EXPO last fall – the continued development of diverse power sources for both consumer- and professional-grade equipment, as well as robotic and automated machines, continues to be a hot topic. With ongoing labor challenges, professional landscapers seem more inclined to use robotic equipment for maintenance accounts.

In the fuels sector, the Renewable Fuel Standard is likely to be taken up by the new Congress. This requirement, put in place in 2005, has led to more and more ethanol in the domestic fuel supply. This dynamic Congress could finally bring the ongoing fuels debate to some resolution.

We also continue to engage with the California Air Resources Board on its 2020 re-write of evaporative emissions regulations. These rules are likely going to drive significant changes to the type of equipment that’s available for sale in the state, and could have implications for dealers across the country.


4. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry in 2019?

Kiser: The industry continues to evolve and grow. We just closed the books on another successful GIE+EXPO, and the talk in Louisville was positive and upbeat. While the industry faces ongoing challenges in workforce and regulations, we also see many opportunities in the development of innovative equipment, and increased attention paid to the benefits of the living landscape from the medical community: Doctors are now encouraging their patients to spend time in nature to help address problems with anxiety, blood pressure and other ailments.










  1. What is new with your company/organization?

Bauersfeld: OPEAA continues to be the best place for aftermarket parts and accessories companies to network. This February, we [are holding] our 33rd Annual Meeting in Austin, and just completed our 2019 Dealer Survey. We’ve got a lot of exciting projects planned for the coming year.


  1. What were the OPE industry’s top stories in 2018, and what do you predict will be the top stories of 2019?

Bauersfeld: We’re starting to see consolidation at both the dealer level and the OEM level. Textron’s decision to exit the zero-turn mower market with its Jacobsen and Dixie Chopper brands was an example of that, as was Black and Decker’s purchase of a 20-percent stake of MTD and acquisition of the Craftsman brand, and Husqvarna’s announcement that it was shifting away from the low-end walk-behind mower segment. We’re seeing consolation at of the dealer base, consolidation at the OEM level, coupled with a move to big box and online retail. The move to online marketplaces for purchases is putting a lot of pressure on the dealers.


  1. What will be the OPE industry’s hottest trends in 2019?

Bauersfeld: The ongoing labor challenges facing dealers and distributors was a key trend last year and will continue to be something we’re all working on in 2019. It’s a real governor on the industry when a large section of dealers’ customers struggle to find production-level employees, and even staff their own shops with technicians.

We’re also seeing an acceleration in battery products coming to market. The two-cycle engine is going to be extinct and replaced by batteries altogether. That takes a whole power plant with a lot of associated repair work for dealers that will be gone from the market.


  1. What is your overall outlook for the OPE industry in 2019?

Bauersfeld: The parts business looks good for this coming year. Homeownership has increased for a number of years – that means there’s new equipment out there. Interest rates have been low, and landscapers have been buying a lot of equipment. In the past few years, we’ve had headwinds of new equipment, which doesn’t need a lot of maintenance. We’re going to see some fractures in the economy, which can be good for the parts sector. When people are hanging on to stuff, that’s where we’re going to do better. We have a good opportunity in 2019 to maintain the fleet and capitalize on slower equipment purchases.

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