The talk among dealerships this time of year is being prepared for the spring rush — assembling mowers, arranging indoor and outdoor displays, hiring staff, catching up on repairs and hosting open houses. The assumption is that because the calendar has flipped to April that customers are headed in to buy.
I don’t intend to dampen your enthusiasm with my next question — only to add a dose of reality: How are you preparing if there is no spring rush?
The thought came to mind when reading a recent news article from Napa Valley, Calif.,stating, “Less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25% statewide water use reduction, the American Canyon City Council adopted a new ordinance banning front lawns on new homes. The Water Efficient Landscaping Ordinance requires all new developments to use drought resistant plants in the front of homes instead of grass or natural turf.”
The effects of the drought, at least in that area, are changing how people think about their homes and properties. And, the lack of water is a very real issue nationwide. According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), about 21% of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories at the end of March. Drought, or extreme weather, has to be factored into your business strategies. (About 1% of the contiguous U.S. fell in the severely to extremely wet categories, according to the NCDC.)
Consider following the lead of related industries, such as landscape designers, to see what they are recommending to homeowners. The American Society of Landscape Architects offers “net zero water & landscape architecture” solutions that recommend lawn alternatives, such as drought tolerant plants, native grasses and paving. The resources at lawnreform.org offer similar solutions. The National Assn. of Home Builders also has a NAHBGreen initiative that includes sustainable building as well as landscaping practices.
The trend is also evident even at GIE+Expo, the leading industry trade show for landscapers, dealers and others. GIE now also features the Hardscape North America (HNA) show. HNA attendance grew 22% over the 2013 show and attracted 43 new exhibiting companies.
I’m not saying you should eliminate mowers from your product lineup because rain clouds are a thing of the past. Just don’t be complacent and plan your future only on the past. Find ways your dealership can be part of new trends in landscaping and “green” alternatives, such as propane options, mulching mowers or decks, etc. Investigate adding site preparation equipment and attachments for those customers who are adding hardscape elements. Establish partnerships with local hardscape contractors.
The good news is that rural lifestylers and homeowners love to mow. Just make sure they have other reasons to visit your dealership when the grass isn’t growing.