Sherwood Tractor was named Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s 2018 Dealership of the Year in the multi-store category. Owner Bart Sherwood has used his retail experience, personal brand and lean approach to operations to build a successful rural lifestyle destination store.
Sherwood Tractor’s main store is 4 miles north of Rose Bud, Ark., population 482. Its second location is in a community about 68 miles away that doesn’t even post a population. In 2017, Sherwood Tractor posted $8.3 million in sales and earned more than 10% return on assets.
The Rose Bud dealership is located on Sherwood’s own farm acreage. The area is very rural; there are only about 25,000 people in the county. Agriculture operations include cattle and hay producers and rural lifestylers, such as horse owners, large property owners and hobby farmers.
The wholesale business began in a building across the road from the current dealership and sold home décor, novelty items, flowers and tools to small stores, boutiques and flea markets. He also raised cattle (and still does) as well as broiler chickens. The wholesale business continued to grow, so they built a new 20,000 square-foot building for the wholesale operation (now the current Rose Bud location), connecting it to the 12,000 square-foot broiler house, which has since been converted into a tool store. At its height, the wholesale business sold to customers as far away as Arizona and Florida. However, the business declined as the items he carried could now be purchased online and the smaller stores and flea markets began to close.
Sherwood started looking for a backup business and a trip to the Arkansas Farm Show offered a new direction. He met a Branson dealer, learned about the tractors and thought it would be a good addition to his operations. Sherwood ordered his first 5 tractors in 2006 and sold 10 that year. At that point, he was operating tractor sales out of a 10 x 14 portable shed.
“That went on for about 3 years. I kept selling a few more each year. In 2009, I told my wife, Lorra, ‘I either need to get out of the business or get in the business.’” He decided to get in and built a 7,200 square foot building and started Sherwood Tractor. He also started searching for a more recognizable tractor brand. “I had a lot of customers in the early days say, ‘I’m going to see if you’re still here next year. If you are, I’ll come back and buy a tractor,’” Sherwood says.
In 2010, he was able to take on the Mahindra line after another area dealer closed. “There’s a lot of overlap because everybody uses a lawn mower, chainsaw or outdoor power equipment and my wholesale customers were rural shop owners, so they had needs for tractors and the products I was selling. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve used equipment all my life and people like to buy from people they trust and people that actually use the products,” he says.
Because of the rural location, Sherwood says he needed a “destination store” atmosphere. He downsized his wholesale business and moved his equipment business to the 20,000-square-foot facility. The 7,200-square-foot facility became the parts and service facility.
Today, the showroom displays 15-20 new Mahindra tractors, ranging from 20-125 horsepower, 6 Mahindra side-by-sides and 6 Cub Cadet utility vehicles, 40 Cub Cadet and Bad Boy zero-turn mowers and STIHL outdoor power equipment. The perimeter of the showroom displays western and home décor and more, and it all connects to the tool room. “This is the largest indoor showroom of its kind in the state. There is plenty for all customers to look at and shop when they come in or are waiting on financing,” Sherwood says.
The outside lot displays another 40 tractors and about 25 utility vehicles along with hunting stands and trailers. A rolling hill in view of the lot stores overflow inventory of about 50 tractors.
For more on Sherwood Tractor:
2018 Dealership of the Year Video Series
Multi-Store Dealership of the Year: Sherwood Tractor, Rose Bud, Ark.