Kris Kiser - OPEI presidentWe sat down with Kris Kiser, president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and got his thoughts on key factors currently impacting the rural lifestyle market, some of the most innovative equipment that’s hit the market in the last 10 years and what he sees as the next big innovations to come in the next decade. He also shares his outlook for the outdoor power equipment market and GIE+Expo’s hopeful return to a live event in 2021.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: What key factors are currently driving buying habits in the market?

Kris Kiser: What we’ve seen during the pandemic is a real connection to the outdoors. The year 2020 showed us that our living landscapes are essential safe spaces, now more than ever. Folks are at home more, spending more time in their living landscape, and investing in their outdoor spaces. Our market statistics program showed dynamic growth across the industry in 2020, with many products posting their best years ever. Homeowners are investing in upgrading their outdoor power equipment, or buying for the first time, especially in the battery/electric space.

RLD: What do you think has been the most innovative equipment advancement in the past 10 years?

Kiser: The introduction of lithium-ion technology has expanded product selection in both customer and commercial-scale equipment in the battery space, as well as development of autonomous and remote-controlled equipment. We’ve seen improvements in charging, run times and expansions in size and scale, leading to acceptance of larger-scale robotic equipment in corporate and university settings. In addition, manufacturers have expanded equipment connectivity technologies, allowing for more data on run-times and service intervals.

RLD: What product innovation do you foresee in the next 10 years?

Kiser: Manufacturers will continue to innovate along all these lines and technologies on a larger scale. This year saw the introduction of large, commercial-grade robotic products. Manufacturers continue to enhance the interconnectedness of equipment and provide ever more efficient products. We see further enhancements in the battery space, including speed charging and more battery-powered zero-turn mowers, as well as continued evolution of fuel injection technologies for more efficient and cleaner products.

RLD: What’s your outlook on the outdoor power equipment market for this year and beyond?

Kiser: The market looks extraordinarily strong. Early on in the pandemic, the outdoor power equipment industry, its dealers and professional landscape contractors were deemed essential. These are the folks that help people to create safe outdoor space and connect with the living landscape. The housing market is thriving as people have a renewed sense of importance to have outdoor space. Signs for GIE+Expo in October look strong. There is a pent-up energy to come back together, and many exhibitors have rolled over their 2020 monies and are looking to expand their exhibit space.

RLD: What keeps you up at night?

Kiser: Mulligan — she really hogs the bed. Looking at 2021, we do face ongoing uncertainty. But we all face challenges. What we’ve learned is we can handle it if we work together.

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