Spring has sprung, Fall has fell, Summer's here and it's hotter than — it was this time last year....
Yup, it is the dog days of summer: a term from the ancients who had time to sit outside at night, wishing for air conditioning and noting that the Dog Star rose each night and could be seen through the sweat in the eyes. My friends from up North only heard about those hellacious hot days us "suth'ners" endure each year — until this year.
110-degree heat index days are here and more on the way. It makes the AC units strain, the parts guys inside gripe about the humidity and the mechanics in the back give them looks that could kill when they hear those wimpy complaints. One old gent came in this week and wiped the sweat and stated "Oh, the Humanity", while we choked back the laughter. To quote a Yogi-ism the customers are also "staying away in droves." The row-crop farm market is still ok, but have you looked around your territory and seen the inventory that has slowly crept up? Two years ago, our lot was empty, period. No new and no used. When a unit came in, there were battles and bidding wars over it. The manufacturers raised the prices and lowered the incentives and raked in unbelievable sales. The supply chain was in shambles. Fast forward 2 years to today, and I counted over 200 tractors under 100 horsepower within an hour's drive, on dealer lots, on a Sunday afternoon. Never in decades have I seen the company who sponsors a golf tournament, have display lots crammed full with under 100 horsepower units.
The supply chain is evidently healed as to these factories. I also saw the flash report last month and some segments of the low horsepower market are off nearly 30%. Small hay equipment fares little better. Now, I am not predicting gloom and doom, but yet the reality is here that Bob Phillips "The Retail Doctor" predicted over a year ago. Free government money and lots of time gave consumers the ability and desire to buy our equipment. Now they are having to pay for it, by and large, and the inflation that was "temporary" (not) is eating away at budgets. Interest rates are adding another "whammy" to the equation.
Have you noticed some manufacturers are offering increased incentives as the inventory builds and orders fall? Have you also noted that we are constantly told "You have to sell yourselves and features and benefits of our superior products" but when sales tank, THEY offer big discounts. The big wheels at the top of our brands, for the most part, have never been through a downturn with their turn at the helm. They don't really hurt until the order bank dries up. That is their profit and cash flow, not when the customer pays us.
As stated, we are not gloom and doom, just stating we are back to "normal." Tough selling, marketing and promotion time is here again. The struggle to maintain margins will increase. Watch that inventory, battle with the reps who want to stack units on top of units on our lots. Floor plans need to be in order and when a neighboring dealer needs a unit, let it go. Remember the Jay Leno Doritos' commercial of years gone by? He munched a chip and stated, "Eat all you want. We'll make more!" They will too. 'Til next time, wising you, uh well, hoping you have a great air conditioner unit!
Told from the perspective of an in-the-trenches owner/operator — Tim Brannon of B&G Equipment, Paris, Tenn. — Equipment Dealer Tips, Tales & Takeaways shares knowledge, experiences and tips/lessons with fellow rural equipment dealerships throughout North America. Covering all aspects required of an equipment dealership general manager, Brannon will inform, entertain and provide a teachable moment for current — and future — leaders within equipment dealerships.
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