Pictured Above: Gary and Lynne Brewer of Perryville Outdoor Equipment in Perryville, Mo., build relationships with their customers by determining needs and suggesting a variety of products, including shredder vacs and combination units.
It’s leaf clean-up season, so blowers will be top of mind with your customers. You can make blowers a year-round sales opportunity, however, by recommending different applications and paying attention to product mix and placement in your store. Dealers share how they’re using these techniques to be successful in selling this multi-purpose power tool.
Maximum Outdoor Equipment & Service, Wichita, Kan., is an independent family-owned and operated dealership serving the rural lifestyler market since 1989. They carry new and used lawn and garden equipment from Husqvarna, Red Max, Ferris, Grasshopper, Snapper, Walker and Tanaka. They also carry parts for Dixon, Exmark, John Deere, Scag, Swisher, Troy-Bilt and Woods.
The Maximum team routinely performs blower demonstrations for its customers and always recommends a blower with any mower purchase.
“I always recommend blowers with mowers. Lawn mowers and water don’t mix,” says Carl Witte, owner of Maximum Outdoor Equipment, referring to an owner using a hose to clean a mower after use. “People don’t always get a blower right away. They usually take some time to think about it. But once they get that mower home and it comes time to clean up afterward, they often come back in to get one.”
“We carry Red Max, Husqvarna and Tanaka blowers, and have since the 1990s. It was by request from customers, so we wanted to meet it. At first, sales were slow, maybe 10-15 per year.”
Since that time, Witte says sales have grown significantly, with recent levels reaching several hundred blowers per year.
“Owning a blower makes clean up so much easier and faster. People don’t want to get a broom out and just want it over and done with no additional manual labor, says Witte. “There’s no particular demographic that is more likely to buy blowers, in my opinion. I’ve had homeowners, rural lifestylers, commercial landscapers and large-scale farmers buy the same model of blowers.”
For his rural lifestyle customers, Witte sees several common problems, and one not so common problem, being solved with this product purchase. “Of course, you’ve got people buying blowers to clean leaves from their yard and driveways, clean out their shops, porches, etc., but you’ve also got people buying blowers to clean off their mowers and other equipment.”
One customer caught Witte’s attention when he revealed his unique use for his recently-purchased blower. “One guy bought a backpack blower and uses it to blow corn into a deer feeder. I still haven’t quite figured that one out yet, but I’d sure like to.”
Stock Different Types
When asked to reveal his key to success with blower sales, Witte made sure to emphasize the importance of manufacturer quality and variety.
“Make sure you look at a product line with wide range of blowers, so you can meet all kinds of needs. Some customers want backpack models, some want rolling models, and some are just fine with an economical handheld model. For example, we carry Husqvarna and Red Max, which have two or three handheld models and several backpack models. And Tanaka has a reasonable handheld model, too. You also want to be sure to choose a manufacturer customers have heard of, so they trust the quality.”
He’s also aware that customers not only seek several different styles, but several types of energy sources. Witte says the gasoline models are gaining popularity among his customers because they offer more power than the electric. He is also seeing a trend toward more lithium battery-powered models. Battery models are already selling well in other parts of the country, such as in California, where some gasoline blowers are banned because of noise and emissions concerns. He thinks success will depend on manufacturers who can meet demand with quality products.
One dealership that’s having success with battery-powered blowers is Perryville Outdoor Products in Perryville, Mo., which carries Stihl, Grasshopper, Cub Cadet, Kioti and DR Power products.
“We’ve been in business 7 1/2 years, and have been carrying Stihl blowers for 6 years,” says owner Gary Brewer. “We’re seeing sales increase with our battery-powered blower. Technology has improved and now the benefit of less noise and emissions is matched with the benefit of enough power to get the job done. People also like the ease of start up.”
When it comes to catering to customer needs, Brewer and his wife, Lynne, focus on ease of use.
“There are so many uses for blowers. It’s just a great way to clean up a variety of surfaces, especially if you’ve got acreage. It just makes life a little easier. We’re even seeing an increase in commercial grade blower sales to residential homeowners, especially those who are aging. They’re tired of battling leaves and grass and just want to get the job done. We help them find the product that will best fit their needs.”
Teach to Reach
Education plays an important role in the Brewers’ success. They not only help customers understand which model may be right for them, but they also explain the functionality of blowers.
“We often get customers coming in who’ve done their homework online, but they’re not always aware what all the terminology actually means. They focus a lot on miles per hour, but don’t pick up on the cfm (cubic feet per minute) and you need a combination of both. For example, you can have two different blowers with the same mph, but different cfm. That’s a big difference.”
The Brewers also educate customers about unique solutions, such as shredder vacuums and combination units that can be sold to complement their blowers.
“One customer was having trouble blowing out a breezeway. Leaves would continually blow back in there and pile up, so we got him a shredder vac that he uses for that particular area and loves it,” Brewer says.
The Stihl HomeScaper series is an example of a combination unit. It has 13 optional attachments available including a blower attachment, hedge trimmers (straight shaft or adjustable), power scythe, grass trimmer (line head, grass blade or curved shaft), edgers (straight or curved), pole pruner, mini-cultivator and sweeping or bristle brush attachments.
The Brewers echo the sentiments of Witte at Maximum Outdoor Equipment & Service about choosing a recognizable manufacturer.
“Choice of manufacturer makes a difference for your dealership when it comes to selling blowers. Stihl products have made it work for us, but there are other good ones out there. You want to offer a good warranty, and especially an extended warranty if possible. For example, Stihl offers a 2-year warranty with any new blower, but if you purchase the 2-cycle synthetic mix at a reasonable cost — which you’ll need anyway — you’ll get an additional 2-year warranty. That’s a big selling point for us,” Brewer says.
Promote to LPOs
Rich Bard, general manager of Granz Power Equipment, Salem, N.H., and Still’s Power Equipment, Manchester, N.H., deals mostly with commercial users. However, a good portion of his business caters to “prosumers,” consumers whose demands for their estates and acreages meet those of the professionals.
“We’re seeing a lot of prosumers, estate owners, etc. We’ve especially seen a rise in sales of zero-turn mowers and backpack blowers, which are traditionally geared to the commercial market, but we’re selling to residential customers. It’s not uncommon to see homeowners walking out with $500 backpack blowers,” says Bard.
Granz and Still’s carry the Billy Goat and Little Wonder lines of high-powered wheeled blowers and the Red Max, Stihl, Echo and Shindaiwa backpack blowers. Blower sales are steady for the dealership, especially in the leaf-rich northeast U.S. They sell approximately 60-70 wheeled models a year and 400-500 backpack models each year.
“When we started to focus on the commercial user, sales really increased for us, but they’ve increased with residential users as well.” They’ve expanded rural lifestylers’ options by carrying higher-powered models, such as Billy Goat’s Force wheeled blowers and Little Wonder’s Optimax wheeled blower.
“Leaf build-up is a big challenge in the northeast and if a homeowner has a place to put leaves, such as a wooded area behind the home, blowers solve a lot of problems. With the power of the blowers today, they can keep up with the leaves, as opposed to the old days when they used to pick it all up in dump carts, etc. I guess they’ve put a lot of neighborhood kids with rakes out of business, but the more entrepreneurial ones are buying blowers and building their businesses,” Bard says.
He says selling a commercial-grade wheeled blower to a homeowner is a gradual process. Typically, a customer comes in with a backpack model in mind, but once the sales staff gets a full evaluation of their needs, they’re informed of the value and power of a wheeled model.
“I had a customer who had his mind set on a backpack blower and bought one. After all, his landscaper used three backpack blowers to handle the job and got it done in an hour. When the guy tried to do it himself, it took all day. So he eventually came back for a wheeled model and was amazed at how much time it saved him.”
In addition to educating rural lifestylers on the pros and cons of blower models, the Granz and Still’s dealership offers rentals for customers to test the models. If they’re satisfied with the product, their rental cost is rolled into the price of a new item.
While this approach may not work for all dealerships, Bard has seen great success with this practice. “Renting products has worked really well for us to increase sales. If you rent it, and like it, you’re likely to purchase it.”
Be Aware of Local Demand
In the northeast, power is king, says Bard. Battery-powered models haven’t gained as much traction with his dealership.
“We sell quite a few battery-powered hedge trimmers, but when it comes to blowers, people around here need more power. I’m only aware of one city (Cambridge, Mass.) with a decibel ordinance when it comes to blowers, but other than that, it’s not an issue here like it is in some other parts of the country.”
In Bard’s opinion, the backpack and wheeled blowers have gotten about as powerful as they’re going to get, with 1 exception. He says self-propelled wheel blowers should generate a lot of interest. “I’m sure we’ll have customers return when the self-propelled models come in,” Bard says.
Position for Success
Bard recommends that dealers keep their showroom floor looking fresh. Make sure to change it with the seasons. For example, in his showroom, they have two separate entrances. One is for commercial customers and the other for residential customers. Each entrance is set up to cater to each customer type, but they also highlight seasonal products, such as blowers, snow blowers, log splitters, etc.
“If you’ve got a good product line, with a reputable name, good support, good engine options, and a good relationship with the manufacturer, you’ve already got a great start. But you’ve only got a short window of time to sell blowers, so you’ve got to do a few additional things or you could be sitting on blowers for a long time.
“Billy Goat and Little Wonder as manufacturers provide us with a good racking systems to put our products on display.”
In addition to displaying products well, Bard has also found success through email campaigns and providing good information on the website. Although they segment their showroom by commercial/residential customers, their emails contain the same message. “We’ve got clients who may consider a $1,000 wheeled blower or a $500 backpack blower, so we want to show them both options.”