Consolidation – on several fronts – is the watchword of the day, and large corporations are studying landscapers with great interest. And if the history is any indication, similar industry trends will be overwhelmingly positive ones for professional landscapers.
The recent merger of the Green Industry and OPEI expos is a good place to start. The new show, called the Green Industry & Equipment Expo, will be October 25-27 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Inherently, landscaping is local in nature. And that fact has long been reflected in a multitude of localized trade shows. Regional turf and home shows specialize in indigenous plants, trends and services. But they lack the punch a large, national show gives any industry in terms of recognition, education and cohesive policy advancement.
Are you serious about a nationally recognized certification program for professional landscapers? Then a national show, where you can meet and strategize with other equally determined landscapers from throughout the country is where you need make your voice heard. A united, unified voice is the best way to boost overall levels of respectability and professionalism.
The other interesting trend has been the increasing interest of major OEMs in the landscaping. Heavy construction hitters like Caterpillar, Case, Ditch Witch and JCB are now interested in landscaping professionals – and not just those contractors in the installation business. The feeling among OEMs is that there’s a lot of room to “imprint” lawn maintenance professionals with brand loyalty on commercial-grade mowers. Have a good experience with a diesel engine on a lawn mower? Well, then, the thinking goes, if your business ever expands and you find yourself in the market for a compact excavator, perhaps you’ll consider buying that engine manufacturer’s machine for your fleet.
Consolidation is another trend affecting the landscaping market – although not a universally popular one. It’s only natural that a big player like Briggs & Stratton would look at the rapidly maturing landscape market and decide to lock in market share by purchasing mower brands such as Snapper, Simplicity and Ferris. It feels it can offer landscapers better engineered product choices, dealer support and maintenance. Others feel the industry loses something since consolidation increases the chance that a distinctive brand will lose the proprietary engineering features that set it apart from its competitors.
Does all this mean the end of small manufacturers and an industry dominated by large corporations? Not at all. Landscaping remains a highly fragmented market. Region- or application-specific specialty products will always be a big part of it. On the other hand, recent consolidation and marketing moves by large corporations and the establishment of a national, high-profile trade show means that landscapers are gaining ground on the economic front and becoming an attractive group for these groups to woo. And that bodes well for the future of our industry.