Flip a coin. Heads, mower shipments are up. Tails, mower shipments are down. Heads or tails, you are correct, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). During model year 1997, shipments of commercial walk-behind units fell 9 percent from 1996's 100,600 to 91,140. On the flip side, shipments of commercial riding units rose from 48,600 in model year 1996 to 52,400 in 1997, an increase of 7 percent. (The model year runs Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.)
OPEI's Commercial Turf Forecast predicts shipments of all types of commercial riding rotary turf mowers will continue to increase in 1998 reaching 53,396 units, which would be a gain of 5.4 percent over 1997's 50,660. (The estimates provided in the forecast represent shipments destined to U.S. markets only.) If the forecast is on the money, we could see another 4.3-percent increase in 1999, bringing shipments up to 55,692. The continuous popularity of riding mowers can be attributed to their ability to maintain such large areas of ground in a time-efficient manner, which is an important aspect in commercial grounds maintenance.
The bar graphs illustrate the progression of walk-behind rotary turf mowers and riding rotary turf mowers over a 5-year span. Actual shipments of all commercial walk-behind units reached only 91,140 in 1997, a 9-percent decrease from 1996's 100,600 units. The top graph specifically describes intermediate-size commercial walk-behind rotary turf mowers, which experienced a significant fall in 1997, dropping 10.4 percent. OPEI's John Liskey attributes part of the decrease in walk-behinds to the severe weather the country experienced in late 1996 and early 1997. However, optimistic analysts predict we will see a slow revival in this market. If shipments climb an anticipated 0.3 percent increase in 1998 and another 1.5 percent in 1999, they will just slightly surpass the 1994 shipments of 50,000 with 50,081. Therefore, for the most part, shipments have remained steady over the years, which is a "winning" sign for the outdoor power equipment industry.
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