The Changing LANDSCAPE by ProQuest


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   By Gregg Wartgow

                             or the past 10-15 years, leading power equipment dealers
                             have adapted their businesses to capitalize on the growing
                             lawn maintenance contractor market. But today’s contrac-
                             tors are different. They provide different services and have
                             different needs. Will dealers be forced to adapt further?

           Forced might be a strong word.            AN EVOLVING INDUSTRY                     competitors have most established
        Dealers with solid brands of core               In the mid- to late-90’s, demand      contractors grounded in the realiza-
        equipment, along with equally solid          for basic lawn services grew as an       tion that diversity is likely their best
        parts and service operations, fulfill a      increasing number of dual-income         way forward—in terms of both cus-
        very important need for maintenance          households had less free time to         tomer retention, sales growth and
        contractors. However, as more estab-         do their own yard work. As a result,     profitability.
        lished contractors look to bring at          lawn maintenance contractors began          There is another dynamic at play
        least some of their equipment main-          sprouting up all over the country.       that could impact how your landscape
        tenance and repairs in-house, many           Then, as the housing and construction    customers operate. As the concept
        leading dealers have expanded their          markets took off in the 2002-2004        of “eco-friendly landscaping” gains
        aftermarket support to include on-site       timeframe, many of these same con-       more widespread acceptance, some
        service, parts delivery and even tech-       tractors began branching into land-      homeowners and landscape design-
        nical training.                              scape installation.                      ers are questioning just how much
           Many dealers have also broadened             The miserable housing market and      lawn should be part of a landscape.
        their inventories to include a variety of    deteriorating economic conditions        Replacing turf with more drought-
        products lawn maintenance contrac-           over the past couple of years have       tolerant elements such as extended
        tors need as they expand and grow            contractors focused on the more          patios, mulch, native shrubs and veg-
        their businesses. Equipment such as          recession-proof business of lawn         etable gardens reduces the need for
        mini skid steers, tractors, attachments      maintenance again. But uncontrol-        fertilization, irrigation and the opera-
        and aerators complement products             lable factors such as drought, tighter   tion of power equipment.
        such as fertilizer, mulch and hardscap-      customer budgets, and pricing pres-         However, the average American’s
        ing supplies.                                sure from a mounting number of           affection for a lush, green lawn will be

22 YA R D & G A R D E N ❘ A P R I L / M AY 2 0 0 9

           LANDSCAPER EVOLUTION, EQUIPMENT NEEDS                                                37% say they view their backyard as
             It’s important to understand the typical “landscape contractor evolu-              a “retreat area.”
           tion.” Generally speaking, most contractors start out in lawn mainte-                    What does all this mean for land-
           nance, but eventually begin offering various installation services—often             scape contractors? There’s an oppor-
           at their customers’ request. At the same time, maintenance contractors               tunity to extend their basic lawn
           who are intentionally looking to diversify and grow their businesses are             maintenance services to include turf
           finding out that “satisfied maintenance customers” are the easiest to sell
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