Consumer spending is up slightly, and 2010 is looking better for the lawn and garden equipment industry than 2009. Projections from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute  (OPEI), an international trade association representing the $15 billion landscape, lawn and garden, forestry, and utility equipment manufacturing industry, show a drab 2009 will gradually bloom into a slightly brighter 2010.

For instance, U.S. walk-behind rotary mower shipments slid below 5 million units to 4.660 million in 2009, but OPEI projects that during 2010, shipments will start to recover, posting a 3.8% gain over 2009. These numbers are expected to climb 6.5% in 2011, to 5.152 million units—that’s a lot of people getting their exercise.


Residential zero-turn-radius riding mower shipments in the U.S. totaled 198,769 units for 2009, 12.3% below 2008. After two down years, however, recovery is expected in 2010 with a 6.0% increase in shipments. Residential riding lawn mowers, a new category for the OPEI, combines products that previously were labeled front engine lawn tractors and riding garden tractors. Shipments of this product fell 13.7% in 2009, but are expected to rebound slightly during 2010, rising 2.0% above 2009. Calendar year 2011 shipments will expand a modest 2.5% over 2010 levels, with total 2011 shipments for residential riders expected to be nearly 1.107 million units.

According to the latest figures from the National Gardening Assn., in 2009, 72% (83 million households) participated in lawn and garden activities, up from 81 million households in 2008. Lawn and garden retail sales totaled $36.060 billion in 2008, but dropped 16% to $31 billion in 2009. “Given the recession, the one thing that went up in 2009 was vegetable gardening, and that was up 20%,” commented Bruce Butterfield, NGA’s research director. “We’ve seen that trend before in hard times.”

That was also evidenced by the OPEI’s figures, which showed that shipments of walk-behind rotary tillers, typically used in vegetable gardens, were up 30.9% (296,407 units) over 2008. The OPEI expects 2010 shipments to be up 10% to 326,048 units and 2011 shipments to be up 8.1% over 2010 to 352,458 units.

Global demand
Global demand for power lawn and garden equipment is projected to expand 2.8% annually through 2013 to $18.4 billion, according to The Freedonia Group’s report, Power Lawn & Garden Equipment (August 2009). While sales have been sluggish due to a downturn in consumer spending, the “bedrock U.S. market will provide the best opportunities, accounting for slightly over one-half of the additional demand generated between 2008 and 2013.”

The report noted that an expected turnaround in the housing crisis and “consumers’ continued enthusiasm for lawn care” will account for an uptick in this market. U.S. power lawn and garden equipment sales will also benefit from the introduction of improved products, such as cordless electric models.

North America and Western Europe will continue their domination of these markets, comprising more than 85% of the demand, thanks in large part to the high per capita income of these nations that allow for these purchases. The fact that these regions are also home to the majority of the world’s golf courses—major consumers of lawn and garden equipment—doesn’t hurt either.

Although golf courses have a lot of equipment, the residential market accounted for 60% of power lawn and garden equipment sales in 2008. However, demand in the commercial market is anticipated to outpace the residential market in most regions through 2013 due to the rising number of professional landscapers who will see increased demand for their services in both residential and commercial properties, said Freedonia.

The report also said lawnmowers will continue to be the largest product segment of the market, benefitting from their wide use in both residential and commercial applications. Trimmers and edgers, like lawnmowers, will benefit  as well, but intense price pressures from China-produced products will limit value gains. Other products such as rotary tillers, leaf blowers, snow throwers, parts, and accessories will grow from rising standards of living in developing nations.

The United States remains the dominant lawn and garden equipment producer, with shipments of $9 billion in 2008 and net exports of nearly $500 million. However, China was the largest net exporter, with a trade surplus of $800 million. Many Western European nations are significant exporters, although Italy is the only nation in the region with a trade surplus, said the Freedonia report.