Marlin Stoltz gives this reason why he built a new 18,000 square foot shop at his Listowel, Ontario, location: “We were a 100-cow herd in a 50-cow barn.”
Stoltz says his Case IH dealership, Stoltz Sales & Service, had outgrown its 4,800 square foot shop years ago, partly because of the increasing size of farm equipment. He says the decision has been good for his team, allowing service techs to work inside year-round. Stoltz Sales & Service has two other locations in Mildmay and Elmira.
The expansion brought an unexpected benefit: He doubled his riding mower sales when he converted the existing service shop to an inside showroom and demo area. “We ended up selling all of the lawn mowers from this store and transferred mowers in from our other 2 stores. We weren’t advertising it, but it was more word of mouth. When customers did stop in here, there was a very high success rate,” Stoltz says.
Show to Sell
Before the indoor showroom, Stoltz says they only had room for about 3 mowers in the old showroom. They did keep others on display outdoors, but the long Canadian winters limited the timeframe of those displays.
Marlin Stoltz is president and general manager of Stoltz Sales & Service, Listowel, Ontario.
“I had always wanted an indoor showroom, but I don’t sell enough lawn and garden equipment to cover the overhead of building one. This was a way for me to dabble in it,” Stoltz says. His area includes mainly farmers and a small amount of rural lifestylers.
“We’re a large iron dealership, but all our customers have lawns, too. I don’t want them driving a product that I don’t sell or service. I want to be their complete supplier,” Stoltz says. The dealership carries Cub Cadet and Grasshopper mowers.
He says the indoor showroom proved several things about successful demos: Customers aren’t necessarily looking for a fancy showroom — and don’t even have to operate the machine. “We don’t have any fancy bells and whistles and don’t have fancy lighting. Less than 20% of the people actually drove the machine,” Stoltz says.
What they did provide were choices and experts to answer questions. “I would take a customer back to the showroom and they would say, ‘Wow. You’ve got a lot of mowers.’ I would say, ‘Yes, we do and we sell lots of mowers. What are you looking for?’ And then I could show them a whole buffet of Cub Cadets.”
Stoltz says the key is to keep the customer in the store. “For lawn and garden purchases, customers do a lot of research ahead of time. When they get to the dealership, it’s down to the ‘touch and feel.’
Stoltz Sales & Service, a Case IH dealership in Listowel, Ontario, converted a shop to an inside showroom and demo area and doubled its mower sales.
“If they leave your place of business, you don’t often see them back.”
Stoltz says he has to remain humble about his success. “Our lawn mower numbers are low, so we can’t be boastful. We sold about 40 riders this year and other years it’s been about 20. Still, when you look at it, it’s a 100% increase in sales.”
He also credits sales to Cub Cadet’s zero-turn mower with a steering wheel. “Almost 50% of our sales were for that unit alone. Zero turns are taking over tractor styles and the steering wheel version of zero turns are revolutionizing the market.
“I always ask who cuts the grass. For a large percentage, it’s women. Not all women are comfortable with a lap bar for steering. They can use the steering wheel and says ‘This fits. This feels good.’”
Now, Stoltz is focusing on duplicating the sales success. “Will it repeat? How can we get to the point where we’re selling 60 mowers? How can we turn this into a bigger spin and sell more?”
He says he plans to begin advertising the showroom and not just rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from customers. “Once we can get them here, the product sells itself.”