In March, Briggs & Stratton announced plans to divest its turf product lines, which includes lawn and garden and turf care equipment sold under the Ferris, Billy Goat, Simplicity, Snapper, and Snapper Pro brands. We asked dealers, “What you think will happen with Brigg's & Stratton's turf products (including Ferris, Billy Goat, Simplicity, Snapper, and Snapper Pro brands.) If you carry one of or more of these lines, what sort of impact do you anticipate the sale of brands will have on your business?”
"I am a Billy Goat dealer in Southern California and I hope that Echo buys Billy Goat. I believe they are the distributor nationwide for the product. Billy Goat has a diverse line and most of their line is top notch. GEDC (owned by Echo 100%) is hands down the best distributor we have and they really really understand customer service.
"We've been an Echo dealer since sometime in the 70s, an Stihl dealer for +40 years and a Honda dealer for more than 30 years, so we've been around the block.
"Service really is THE name of the game and a product line will completely fail if there is no service behind it.
"On the Snapper front, here in California we need another 21 inch commercial walk behind mower brand besides Toro, Exmark and Honda, but I'm doubtful Snapper is that brand. I remember the early 'commercial' mower Snapper with the Honda motor that really allowed Honda to get a foothold here in the U.S.
"I really just don't see where Ferris, Simplicity or Snapper can create an added value for me or my customers. Sad to say, but maybe they should close out the lines. I would not consider bringing in any of the brands."
— Laura Toro, Toro's Lawnmower, Garden & Chain Saw Center, La Crescenta, Calif.
“We are one of Briggs’ larger dealers. I would imagine that all potential buyers of these different product lines would want any sort of sale to be very seamless. Large companies are bought and sold every day. Simplicity was a stand-alone company, as were all the rest. I have to guess that Briggs got too big and lost control of what they were originally good at, and that was building engines. I look at so many other companies, and this is nothing new. If Ferris or Simplicity were to say we are done and discontinuing the brand, then that would be a different story. If these companies are branching off or a new company purchases them, it also could be better for the dealer and consumer. I do not feel the impact will be significant; the only way it would impact any dealer is if the product line were to be discontinued, then that would be a big deal. I have to guess most customers could not care less and do not keep up on this sort of stuff. Most of the time, most customers have no idea what Briggs all owns.
“In 2004 Briggs purchased Simplicity. I was very concerned when this happened because the prestige of Simplicity lawnmower’s built-in Port Washington, Wis., was going to have a different perception due to selling to a big brand. I used to go to the plant in Port Washington, and it was old and needed many repairs, so I have to guess if the purchase did not happen the Simplicity brand would not be what it is today and possibly might not be around.
“So here we are 16 years later, and this company will be sold again, so was it planned right from the start, and Briggs said we want to get to X amount of sales or profit and then we sell? Is it because this business is extremely competitive, and it is difficult to make the ROI that the board wants to see? Does Briggs need to generate cash to do a totally different venture? Business is exciting, and a lot of huge Wisconsin companies have sold are now gone. Look at Allis Chalmers — the massive Wisconsin company took up city blocks, and now most people have no idea where or what that company all did.
“We were an original Dixon zero-turn dealer, and that is an interesting lawnmower company to check out all the different ownership, eventually totally being discontinued.
“Not shocking one bit, and I will hope the new ownership will only want to make these lines better.”
—John Bachhuber, McFarlanes, Sauc City. Wis.
“Google, investing in Briggs & Stratton, and you will have plenty to write about. The $5 million bonus to the executive team, rather than pay a $6 million note that was due, and then a 200 people lay off, tells the story of how to ruin a 100-year-old company. With two more interest notes coming due, they could file for bankruptcy before you can have your article ready for publishing. Then we will see who wants to pick up the pieces, big company money. Makes me sick to see what can happen to a company so stable and profitable. Loose nut behind the wheel.”
— Joe Tegethoff, Heavy Duty Equipment Co., Chesterfield, Mo.
“As this is a secondary line, I do not believe this will have a significant impact on our business.”
—Tom Ballweg, Ballweg Implement Co., Waupun, Wis.
“As a dealer, I am very disappointed with Briggs. Briggs was my best supplier for a long time. But in recent years they farmed out their Ferris and Snapper Pro line to a distributor which very much affected my sales and profit in a negative way.
“They only had one rep for the last few years. Although I was satisfied with my rep, he was spread so thin. Then the upper management miss a $6.7 million interest payment, postponed they said, but gave themselves a $5.1 million bonus. As a shareholder I am very upset.
“Those running this company should be sued for destroying a great company.
“Currently, I am very concerned with ordering more units. Will the company be in business this year or next? What do I tell my customers when I can’t get support.
“I have been considering leaving Briggs and looking for another supplier.”
—Stan DiGuiseppi, Easy Wheels, Hernado, Fla.
“Briggs should give Paul Singer at Elliot Management a call. Personally, I hope they all go away. There are way too many mower brands anyway.”
—David Heckman, Heckman Outdoor Power, Minster, Ohio
“The market is so saturated with brand choices in this segment now, I am not sure there is a lot of value in Snapper, Simplicity and Ferris. And Billy Goat is just a tag along kind of like Peco. So, it would not surprise me if whoever buys them just buys them for their engineering and not the brand names.”
—Don Van Houweling, Van Wall Equipment, Perry, Iowa
“I handle Ferris, Snapper, Snapper Pro & Billy Goat and I believe the products will suffer in quality and pricing if bought by an investment group.”
— Marc Waller, I-4 Power Equipment, Plant City, Fla.
“Who knows what will happen to the lines. I heard from our rep for Ferris that they are now looking into a private equity company buying it. Then hopefully that company would make some needed inside changes. I don't see another major brand purchasing them.
“The only line that really is keeping them afloat is Ferris. The Snapper Pro line really needs to probably go and the Simplicity line has lived its life. Most young buyers today don't even know the Simplicity name. It was their ‘Grandfather's’ brand. It’s kind of the same with Snapper, an old brand that registers with the age 65+ crowd. But not today. The problem they have had with the Snapper Pro brand is the fact it says Snapper. That has hurt them.
“Ferris took the non-sup. mowers that were S.P. and put them in their line-up but that didn't work either. Ferris is synonymous with suspension. They are removing those models for next year (under the Ferris name).”
— Scott Haltom, Haltom Equip., Mooresville, Ind.
“Club Car Golf Car announced partnership with Briggs & Stratton for Briggs to supply Lithium batteries to Club Car, then a week later Briggs announces they are skipping a multi-million dollar interest payment but at the same time are making multi-million dollar payments to officers and key employees. Now adding this divesture makes it sound like they are going out of business or getting ready to file bankruptcy to me. I am not a Briggs dealer of any kind, but if I was I would be very concerned!”
— Neal Smith, Little Egypt Golf Cars Ltd., Salem, Ill.
“First our snapper sales are not big. We are on hold with Snapper for summer equipment waiting to hear the outcome of the sale. We did not order any this spring. We do still want to handle snow throwers — a necessity in Northern Minnesota.”
— David Smith, MJB Home Center, Bemidjii, Minn.
“I think it will be Kubota for their future turf line like the garden tractor line and the suspension set up for their tractors and zero-turn line.”
— Jerry Wangler, Willards Equipment, West Branch Mich.
"I think it depends on the buyer. Will one company buy all or will they be split up Hopefully the new buyer will spend more on advertising than Briggs did."
— Karl Kittel, Michael's Mowers, Houston, Ohio