The forecast for 2019 remains solid for the rural equipment market according to Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s 2019 Dealer Business Trends & Outlook Report. Dealers report they are upgrading their dealerships to support their expanding lineups and growing customer bases. The Dealer Business Trends & Outlook survey shows that more than 58% of dealers plan to modernize or make improvements in their shop and service departments. A new question for this year asked dealers what they charge on a per-hour labor rate. The majority, 62%, charge between $76 and $100, but 3% are charging $126- $150 an hour. (See the chart “Dealers’ Hourly Shop Labor Rate”.)


Nearly 46% plan to update their retail space, a good move says Paige Wittman of Miller Wittman Retail Design Group. “You all have a different starting point, but you have to start somewhere. Good retail design will increase your sales and increase your profit margins,” Wittman says. They’ve seen increases of 40% on sales of wholegoods and more than 50% on parts and accessories sales.

About 37% plan to invest in business information systems. Rural Lifestyle Dealer columnist Bob Clements of Bob Clements Intl. offers this advice to dealers regarding business information systems: “It can either be the most useless expense that you’ve ever made in your dealership or the greatest investment. And it has nothing to do with the software at all. It really has to do with what you’re doing with the software.” View this webinar to help maximize the benefits of your business management software,

Promoting Your Brand

The Dealer Business Trends & Outlook survey looked at other factors that contribute to success, such as brand and dealership reputation. What you sell is important, but respondents this year had a different view. About 52% say customers have a brand in mind some of the time or almost always when they visit a dealership. That compares with 60% of dealers indicating that sentiment last year. Perhaps that means you have a chance to change a customer’s mind if they are shopping around. (See the chart “Percent of Customer Visits in Which Specific Brand/Unit is Requested” below.)


So, how you sell becomes even more important and dealers are positive about their influence with customers. About 77% of dealers, matching last year’s number, say their product recommendations are accepted some of the time or most of the time. (See the chart “Percent of Dealer Suggested Product Recommendations Accepted” at the top.)