We sat down with Bob Walker, chairman of Walker Mowers, Fort Collins, Colo. Walker Mowers is a third-generation owned company that designs, manufactures, and sells Walker Mowers across the U.S. and in 28 countries.
We got Walker’s thoughts on key factors driving buying habits in the market, innovative equipment advancements, product innovations, and more.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer: What key factors are currently driving buying habits in the market?
Walker: Price is always a consideration, and for a lot of people, that’s their whole focus. How well the mower works is important, too. Particularly for commercial use, the productivity of the machine is key. People learn about the productivity of the machine from experience — they learn what equipment is the best for their application. Third, some people figure out how long a piece of equipment lasts, the net cost of ownership, and that figures in as well.
RLD: What has been the most innovative equipment advancement in the pat 10 years?
Walker: Small, compact, zero-turn machines have really found their place in the market, both stand-on mowers and compact front-mount machines. The versatility of these machines to mow and trim out narrow areas makes them useful machines and has advanced the industry. In the past, those areas were being mowed not very productively with walk-behind machines, so having very compact zero-turn styles has increased productivity.
RLD: What product innovation do you foresee in the next 10 years?
Walker: There’s been a lot of interest in electrics and battery power. There are still some missing pieces that need to fall into place to make them what they should be. Some are already on the market, but they’re compromised machines, and more innovation is needed, especially for commercial contractors to use the equipment.
RLD: What is your outlook on the outdoor power equipment market for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
Walker: Right now, the market looks good for us. The whole industry has a lot of demand for equipment, and that’s wonderful. The outlook has a lot of disruption in manufacturing, so the prediction is it’s going to take 1-2 years until demand and capacity will be more synchronized. Otherwise, it’s a time of disruption and demand outrunning production and availability of equipment is coming up short. That revolves around the supply chain that we’ve heard so much about — it’s real.
RLD: What is Walker Mowers’ greatest strength?
Walker: We like to say we’re a medium-size company, not big corporate. One of our strengths is that we try to operate family style and keep it personal. Corporate has tremendous resources, but there are things we can do that they can’t. We know our customers and have a personal touch with dealers and distributors that creates a team feeling. People know each other and enjoy working together, and people are important. Everyone wants to feel part of something where they matter, and we think that’s a strength. Of course, in the market, you’ve got to be innovative — you can’t just do or make what everyone else is doing or making. We have tried to build equipment that we’d like to own ourselves, and we happen to have a taste for high-quality, high-performance equipment. To compete with the big companies, we have to produce innovative equipment.
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