When Rural Lifestyle Dealer surveyed dealers in late 2019 for the annual Dealer Business Trends & Outlook Report, half of dealers were expecting growth of 2% or more in 2020.

The coronavirus crisis has created some uncertainty in the market with stay at home orders in place throughout much of the country. Has your sales outlook for 2020 changed, and if so has it gone up or down? Likewise, how has your business been through the first quarter of 2020?

“Our business for the first quarter has been up by about 5%. Coronavirus just really started sinking in around here toward the end of the first quarter. However, with the first full month into the 2nd quarter we are still up by about 5%. My prediction is that the aftermath of some of the virus thing will have us near flat or 1-2% above for second quarter and flat by 3rd and 4th quarter.”

— Ron Lonneman, President, Ron’s Equipment Co., Fort Collins, Colo.

“Business for the first quarter on the consumer side started out extremely slow, due to weather and COVID-19. Beginning in April, things started to improve. I see the market continuing to improve as long as we don’t have another outbreak of the virus.”

— Mike Linton, General Manager, Heritage Agriculture, Carlisle, Ark.

“Due to the coronavirus crisis normal business has been slower than expected. However, due to our sales & marketing manager’s creativity we have had a solid spring. Our higher dollar items are down approximately 15% year to date, but our lower dollar items are up 75%. The net effect has been an overall decrease in sales of 5%. We are fortunate to have a creative group of guys that have made 2020 a success year to date.”

— Andy More, President, More Farm Store, Columbia City, Ind.

“Lawn mower sales have been flat in the 1st quarter of the year. However, compact loader tractors are selling strong. We are seeing a major increase in online parts sales, which we are attributing to all the people shopping from home and our service shop has remained very busy. So far our sales are 10% ahead of 2019, which is what our sales projections were at the beginning of the year. So fortunately, overall we have not experienced much of a negative impact on our business due to the stay at home orders in place.” — Glenn Leid, Owner, Nolts Power Equipment, Shippensburg, Pa.

“Our sales expectations went down significantly with the shutdown. The amazing part is we are actually ahead of 2019 monthly totals so far this year. How you can do that is amazing and I have to credit the crew.”

— Dave Smith, Parts Manager, Ag West Supply, Madras, Ore.

“Yes, my outlook has changed. It has gone down. The first quarter was fantastic, then along came April. April was off the mark, business was just OK, not dead and certainly not what we expected or would have had without this COVID-19 craziness. Lawn and garden sales were still strong in April but all other areas were down.”

— Kelly Umphrey, General Manager, Tulsa New Holland, Tulsa, Okla.

“We had projected our turf business to be up slightly from a year ago, similar to the comments below. We then adjusted our outlook to be down 20-30% for the year. Through the first quarter, we are down 11.8%. What we have found so far is that with more people staying at home and/or working from home, the home projects have increased. With more home projects, there has been good activity. What we have also noticed is that the equipment that is being purchased (both mowing and compact utility tractors), is a lower dollar amount. I think with the uncertainty in the economy, many people are buying smaller units or less expensive units. I have found that some of our manufacturers are telling us the same thing. We expect more of a slowdown as people burn through their nest egg and have to curb spending due to layoffs or reduced hours.”

— Name withheld by request

“First quarter revenues were down slightly, 5%. The remainder of year is a mystery. Thus far, buyers are still out there, but availability of equipment from manufacturers is a question still to be answered.”

— Gordon Earhart, CEO, Earhart Equipment Corp., Tucson, Ariz.

“Approximately 60% of our 2020 wholegoods sales would have been made prior to the warnings of COVID-19 becoming the current hot issue. First quarter parts sales were up 27% this year over last and service work has increased 14%. I would give credit to an 11% increase in the number of technicians we have and last year the Missouri River bottom was flooded. This year the flood plains have been planted and there is currently extensive construction work on the levees, which will take years. Going into the year, my estimates were for a 10% increase in wholegoods sales and a 15% increase in aftermarket. Currently, I am expecting a 10% decrease in wholegoods and a 5-10% increase in aftermarket.” 

— Larry Roeder, CEO, Hiawatha Implement Co., Hiawatha, Kan.

“We will be down. We are about 20% off already and if the businesses stay closed it will get much worse.”

— Duane Nolden, Owner, Middleton Power Center, Middleton, Wis.

“Our under 100 horsepower tractor and lawn mower retails are up over 20% through the first 4 months of the year. We’re finding that many folks are holding off on needed purchases until after the pressures with the virus subside. However, a much larger group of people have told us, ‘If we’re going to be stuck at home, then our yard is going to look great!’ We’re having trouble getting restocked on Massey Ferguson tractors 50 horsepower and below because neighboring dealers are having similar runs. This is true for our Tifton, Ga., Dothan, Ala.. and Goldsboro, N.C., locations.” — Benjamin Land, General Manager of Ag Sales, Atlantic & Southern Equipment, Lake City, Ga.

“As a Mahindra dealer, our 2020 April sales grew 235% over April 2019. Our year to date grew 140% over the same period last year ending April 30, 2020.”

— Byron Miles, Red Dirt Tractors, Alexandria, La.

“It’s a weird year, with some pockets of business doing well and others struggling. All things considered, I suspect we will finish flat for the year with a shortfall in wholegoods covered by parts and service.”

— Neil Messick, Marketing & Kubota Product Manager, Messick’s, Elizabethtown, Pa.

“Our sales forecast has changed. We were originally expecting a sales increase of 5% or so. Now, I expect our sales to be down 15% due to economic uncertainty, low commodity prices and product availability. Our first quarter sales were flat. We had a lot of pre-sales coming into the year, so that propped up the first quarter. We expect to start feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the 2nd quarter and think the impact will be greatest in the 3rd quarter. The 4th quarter will depend on commodity prices.”

— Ronnie Barnett, CFO, H&R Agri-Power, Hopkinsville, Ky.

“Our April sales were very strong and May is showing signs of the same. So my outlook for 2020 has stayed the same, which I originally said we would be flat for 2020 after having the one of best years ever in 2019.” Cory Forrester, General Manager, Forrester Farm Equipment, Chambersburg, Pa.

“Our two dealerships have been impacted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our sales outlook for 2020 has changed — going down from our initial projections. With the stay at home orders in place, we have seen our daily customer traffic at our dealerships reduced. This was especially true for the last two weeks of March and the first two weeks of April 2020. We have seen our daily foot traffic increase with the spring growing season beginning in western Pennsylvania over the past two weeks. We have seen an increase in the parts and service areas of our business as it appears that customers are holding off on the purchase of new equipment and ensuring their existing equipment will get them through this season.

“Our 1Q 2020 sales are down about 20% as compared to the same period last year. We have seen some improvement in our May 2020 month-to-date sales over prior years, but it will be difficult to make up for the lost sales of March and April 2020.” — Shane Harding, Corporate Controller, The Ritenour Group of Companies


“Business is up considerably with record sales in April. But we are optimistic and hopeful that sales stay steady or ‘normal’ and do not fall off drastically in the near future. Outlook is hard to gauge with the current economic times. We are being very cautious and conservative in case sales do fall off drastically below the average for the last few years.”  

Jarrad Bates, Vice President, Clanton Tractor & Equipment, Clanton, Ala.

“These are certainly tough times to make predictions! At this point, I’m guessing our revenue will drop around 20% compared to last year’s revenue. Our numbers YTD are not as bad as we expected and we are certainly blessed. Our equipment sales are down about 25% YTD, but our parts and service sales have both gone up every month of this year. We are seeing higher spending from the residential customer and lower spending from the commercial customer.  Some of that may be due to a winter with very little to no income for the landscape customers.”

— Jaron Weaver, Partner, Weaver’s Equipment Sales & Service, Vineland, N.J.

“Our rural lifestyle business is a small part of our overall business. Our customer tends to be more of a walk in buyer. The downturn of floor traffic has lowered our business about 15% and that is what we expect to trend in 2020.”

— Les Olson, CEO, Plains Ag, Dickinson, N.D.

“Although the first quarter compact equipment sales were up 10% vs. 2019, the month of April was down 20% which leads me to believe the COVID-19 impact will be felt in Q2.The full year compact equipment revenue will likely be down.”

— Brian Taschuk, President, Agriterra Equipment, Lougheed, Alta.

“Our revenue is actually up considerably through the first quarter of 2020. We've been very fortunate thus far, but are waiting for the other shoe to drop. With that being said, we have not changed our forecasts or budgets so far. We are going to wait until we see real financial evidence of a decline to change our expectations. We are now in the middle of May and haven't seen that evidence yet.”

— Shawn Skaggs, President/CEO, Livingston Machinery, Chickasha, Okla.