From the Desk of Lynn Woolf: December 16, 2014

Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s 2015 Business Trends & Outlook survey is now wrapped up and thank you to the dealers who responded. The official results will be released in our winter issue, but here’s one nugget I can share: Your decision to pursue the rural lifestyle market is a good one.

It’s an interesting task to wade through the percentages and breakdowns to uncover trends. Dealers took the time to forecast not just what kind of year they expect, but down to the level of forecasting growth by product group. It definitely wasn’t a “fill in the blank” exercise for the survey respondents — and we appreciate that. Valid data strengthens our community of rural lifestyle dealers.

Harry Wells is managing vice president for American Implement, a Massey Ferguson and Kioti dealer in Farmington, N.Y.
Harry Wells is managing vice president for American Implement, a Massey Ferguson and Kioti dealer in Farmington, N.Y.

Those who completed the survey were eligible to win a $100 gift card and the lucky winner is Harry Wells, managing vice president for American Equipment LLC, a Massey Ferguson and Kioti dealer in Farmington, N.Y. I checked in with Wells to see how 2014 is ending up and what’s ahead for 2015. His responses echoed what we’re hearing from dealers overall in terms of opportunities and challenges.

American Equipment was in the top tier in terms of performance for 2014, with an estimated 16% growth over 2013. In the 2014 survey, about 39% of dealers expected growth of 2-7% this year and about 6% expected growth of 8% or more.

“We see the mood of our customers changing for the good. I think they are so tired of the whole political scene they are now turning a deaf ear to it. Changes in the House and Senate are encouraging a lot of people. Customers who have been conservative are now rewarding themselves with new or updated equipment. Our Massey Ferguson and Kioti tractor sales are both up 19% and we see that continuing into next year,” Wells says.

To keep pace with that growth, Wells added 4 employees to its staff of 24. Based on input from other dealers, they were fortunate to find qualified employees. Dealers compete against better wages and easier working conditions. And unless you’re from agriculture, many job seekers overlook dealerships as a career opportunity. Scoop Reif, human resources director for Midwest Machinery, a John Deere dealership in central Minnesota, told us for a “Best Practices” feature that they try to recruit before they have a job opening, not after. We’ll uncover more ideas as we continue to cover this topic in 2015.

In terms of challenges for 2015, Wells says, “As always, predicting inventory levels for wholegoods and parts are always a challenge. Suppliers are putting more pressure on us by offering stocking discounts and interest-free periods for financing. Tractor availability lead time is a big concern as it’s getting longer.”

Other dealers shared this concern in the “Industry Q&A” feature in the fall issue. Another Massey dealer, Doug Vahrenberg of Vahrenberg Implement, Higginsville, Mo., says, “Our #1 concern is keeping enough inventory on hand to meet growing demand. After a record setting 2013, 2014 has exceeded those records already with 4 months to go. We continue to increase order levels, but we’re still not keeping up with demand. We have worked closely with Massey Ferguson to order for drastic growth for the remainder of 2014 and 2015.”

As 2014 winds down, we hope you’re also wrapping up a good year — if not a record setting one. Let’s take the time over the next few weeks to rejuvenate and reconnect with family and friends, so we’re all ready for whatever 2015 throws our way. 

Lynn Woolf,
Managing Editor
Rural Lifestyle Dealer