Rural Lifestyle Dealer offers a comprehensive analysis of the 2017 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s 2017 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey in the summer issue. Here's an excerpt featuring comments from STIHL, which earned a Gold award. STIHL's highest score among the 12 criteria as ranked by dealers was in the area of parts quality. STIHL's score of 6.46 was higher than the average mean score of all OPE manufacturers of 6.04. STIHL outranked Scag, the Dealer's Choice recipient, in the areas of product availability and marketing & advertising support. 

Chris Long, new business & training development manager for STIHL, comments on the company’s rankings:

On proud criteria: STIHL is most proud of the fact that we had the highest overall rating among the handheld outdoor power equipment (OPE) suppliers and we landed in the top 5 in all 3 categories that the dealers said were most important to them. We continue to support the servicing dealers and we think the results of the survey reflect our positive relationship with them.

On short-term focused improvement area: STIHL dealers are growing and we need to continue efforts to ensure that we support that growth with proper forecasting of parts and inventory to ensure that dealers have the product they need to meet demand.

On recent changes: Our analysis of the survey results year-over-year shows dealers responded positively to our increased marketing and advertising efforts. Over the last year, STIHL launched the largest number of new products in our company’s history, supported by the single largest coordinated marketing effort in our history, driving new customer traffic to STIHL dealers.

On current trends: The switch from gas to battery in the homeowner segment is a trend we are seeing across the industry, but more than that, we are watching the buying habits and preferences of millennials. While 73% of millennials report they make purchases directly on their smartphones (Source: BazaarVoice), the vast majority of outdoor power equipment (OPE) sales are still done in store. Over the last 10 years, as customers — including millennials — recognize the advantages of buying local and the benefits of shopping with a knowledgeable dealer that also provides service, STIHL servicing dealers have actually taken back retailer share from big box stores. 

On strategy when missing the mark: We know that continued success does not come without challenges. At STIHL, we aren’t just focused on the development of new products; we are also investing heavily in all areas of the company including R&D, inventory, logistics and manufacturing, to ensure quality products are delivered on time to our dealers.

On plans for dealer network: Our plan is to continue to support independent servicing dealers through new product introductions, training, and sales and marketing support with the sole purpose of driving traffic through their doors and increasing their bottom line.