Brian Coulter of Norfolk Power in Wrentham and Carver, Mass., and in Burrillville, R.I., sells Ariens, Boss, Toro, Husqvarna, Cub Cadet, Honda, Normand, HLA Attachments, FFC (Paladin Attachments) and SnowEx equipment, along with Kubota and Terex. His area starts getting snow in late December, and normally, customers are moving snow weekly through March. Last year, they sold 2,200 walk-behind snow blowers.
“Ninety percent of your people really don’t want to buy that piece of equipment, especially on the consumer side, until they absolutely need it. So, the first snowfall of the year, we get really busy and it’s a challenge to get all the equipment set up and out the door.
“Typically, our spring demand starts slowing down in June, so we send out service flyers offering discounts to bring the machine in early and get it ready for wintertime. From a sales perspective, we actually run our largest snow promotion during the third week in August and it’s been successful. Those two programs have taken some of the urgency out of the business,” Coulter says.
“This past winter, we had our best snow sales of all time, but with hardly any snowfall. There was so much snow the year before that people couldn’t get their hands on equipment fast enough, so it drove sales for the next year. This year, we anticipate a slower start and to sell less equipment, unless there’s a major snow,” he says.
Coulter also rents to large snow contractors and then sells the returned equipment at a discount. Last year, he rented track loaders out for six months and some returned with less than two hours on them.
Coulter recommends new dealers focus on one or two brands and become proficient at servicing them. “When you’re starting out, you don’t want to pass up any sales, because you want to get every dollar you can. As the business has grown, we’ve found some of our major lines would more than satisfy our business.
“Customers are now used to us being a one-stop shop, but it requires my technicians to know more; my parts department to stock more; and a larger sales staff that needs to know about each piece of equipment. I think as you add lines you start to lose efficiency. You can’t know everything about everything,” he says.
However, you also have to be able to offer service even in bad weather conditions, he adds.
“If it’s snowing outside, it doesn’t matter what day it is, even what holiday it is. We’ve sent guys out in the middle of the night in a blizzard to repair machines. Not every technician is cut out for this type of work, but some actually enjoy it, and we compensate them accordingly. I have an account that hires one of my technicians every storm to sit on their lots and wait for equipment to break. I bill him out at $165 per hour and he gets paid accordingly,” he says.
On the consumer side, Coulter says you need to explain the differences between maintaining lawn and garden equipment vs. snow equipment. For instance, fuel degradation is greater with snow blowers than with lawn mowers because they sit idle during the hottest time of the year.
Read how other dealers are boosting sales of snow removal equipment.