We sat down with Rick Bailes, co- owner of Bill’s Tractor and Equipment, a one-store Mahindra, Hustler, Gravely, Scag and Stihl dealer in Adkins, Texas, (just outside San Antonio) and got his thoughts on key factors driving buying habits, what the most innovative equipment advancements have been in the past decade, and more.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer: What key factors are currently driving buying habits in the market?
Bailes: The weather has always played a huge role. We are dependent on the rain and Mother Nature. I think Facebook has also ramped up the accessory purchases for consumers, like backhoes and grapples. More expensive items that we weren’t selling many years ago, we are now selling more, and our customers are posting their pictures proudly on Facebook of their equipment and accomplishments. Plus, people are staying home more. Maybe people want to try and be more self-sufficient, like growing a large garden.
RLD: What do you think has been the most innovative equipment advancement in the past 10 years?
Bailes: Outside of the EQ dealer industry, I would say robotic mowers and vacuum cleaners, self-driving vehicles, and alternative power sources have been big advancements. There has been a lot of new technology and advancements in the large ag business, but we focus on the smaller stuff. I think Mahindra's mCRD Engine was a huge breakthrough. It eliminates the need for Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) and never requires high-temperature burn offs. That is a huge plus for the end user. Mahindra’s new engine technology was a game changer for passing Tier 4 emissions and they are ahead of all their competition.
RLD: What is your advice you’d give to the younger version of yourself just entering the business?
Bailes: Have a long-run game plan. Too much growth too fast without a plan can be hard. Also save your money. There will be plenty of times you will be thankful you did.
RLD: What are you not afraid of that some people are?
Bailes: Stocking a lot of inventory. Times change, so be prepared. I’ve seen shortages on whole goods over the past 25 years. Thankfully, it is not too bad or too often. Look at what is happening now, more than a year after Covid, everyone is struggling to get inventory. Manufacturers are struggling, shipping problems, shortages on parts for units. This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. I don’t see it fixing itself quickly either. The other thing is advertising. To grow, you have got to spend money on advertising.
RLD: What is your outlook on the outdoor power equipment market for this year and beyond?
Bailes: Shortages of equipment are prevalent now and will be in the near future. When that gets caught up and demand goes down, there will be extra inventory in the field. Also, prices on steel and materials have climbed sky high. What happens if and when they lower and stabilize? We may have to drop margins to move equipment that was purchased at a much higher price. With the uncertainty and shortage of equipment, it’s hard to find a good balance on your inventory levels. I wish I had the secret to it. Fortunately, we have been blessed through it all.
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