Lawn and power equipment sales

To clearly examine commercial lawn and garden equipment, we should first categorize its constituents: mowing equipment, other turf- and grounds-care equipment, hand-held equipment, parts and attachments.

"Mowers dominate [commercial lawn- and garden-equipment] shipments, accounting for 60 percent in 1996, based on their extensive use in every commercial market," reports The Freedonia Group. "Riding mowers are the leading product in this segment due to the huge expanses of ground maintained in commercial turf and grounds applications and the fact that efficiency [mowing speed] is a vital determinant of product selection."

The Freedonia Group's research shows that turf- and grounds-care equipment will experience the fastest growth through 2001, despite the dominance of mowing equipment. The company credits the demand for multifunctional products among commercial end users as the driving force behind the upward sales trend of mowers. In the category of turf- and grounds-care equipment, The Freedonia Group includes vacuums, blowers, sweepers and miscellaneous products (aerators, chippers, dethatchers, snow-removal equipment, utility trucks, sod cutters and top dressers). According to Freedonia analysts, this category will grow almost as fast as the mowers through the end of 2001. "Gains will be fueled by new products aimed at specialty applications, improved ergonomics and performance, and a favorable outlook for golf-course construction."

In 1997, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), shipments of key lawn and garden products boasted an overall 3-percent increase (see Table 1). OPEI anticipates that during the summer of 1998, we will see more outdoor power equipment in the hands of users than ever before. Furthermore, OPEI predicts that this growth trend will continue through 1999. The list of popular products in demand includes walk-behind mowers, front-engine lawn tractors, riding garden tractors, walk-behind tillers, edgers and trimmers.

In its Commercial Turf Care Equipment Forecast, OPEI predicts that 1998 shipments of all types of commercial riding rotary turf mowers will reach 56,173 units, which is a 7.2-percent increase over 1997's shipments. Additionally, another 5.1-percent increase is anticipated for riding units in 1999. Shipments of commercial intermediate walk-behind mowers also are rising. In 1998, OPEI expects they will increase 4.7 percent, reaching 50,570 units. (See Grounds Maintenance, May 1998, "Market Update," for annual changes over the past 6 years.)

The Portable Power Equipment Manufacturers Association (PPEMA) posted shipment increases for all hand-held gasoline-powered equipment for 1997 except hand-held blowers, which fell 2.3 percent (see Table 2). The sharpest gains were in shipments of hedge trimmers, which increased 18.5 percent to reach 276,000 units. This is a positive sign for hedge-trimmer manufacturers who watched shipments plunge 8.3 percent in 1996 to 232,900 units. PPEMA foresees increases from 1.5 to 4.5 percent for all hand-held gasoline-powered equipment in 1998. If the forecast is accurate, backpack blowers will increase 4.5 percent or nearly 12 percent over the 2-year period.

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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