While the mild winter experienced throughout most of North America may have hurt winter tire sales, one tire segment saw a benefit. The lawn and garden tire market - which has seen slow, steady growth for the past several years - is starting 2012 off strong, particularly on the commercial landscaping side.
The lawn and garden tire market, which has seen slow, steady growth for the past several years, is starting 2012 off strong, particularly on the commercial landscaping side. Longer-term growth will be tied to the strengthening of the economy and the housing market.
“We’ve seen a good start to the season,” says Brian Preheim, consumer and commercial product manager for Carlisle Tire & Wheel Co. “Longer-term growth will be tied to the strengthening of the economy and the housing market.”
He adds that while the recent weak economy and housing market may have muted OE sales in this segment, on the replacement side, the segment was in full bloom as people opted to maintain, rather than replace, their equipment. To accommodate tightened budgets, lawn equipment makers have introduced some smaller units offered at a lower price point. Even this did not negatively impact the tire market, as tire sizes needed for the smaller equipment generally already existed.
Carl Miller, vice president of sales and marketing for Monitor Manufacturing Co., a division of Kenda Tire USA, sees the overall lawn and garden tire market as somewhat flat, with no major growth predicted over the next few years. His advice for tire dealers is to focus more on the commercial landscaping niche, which has shown steady growth for the past decade.
For commercial and residential customers alike, however, availability is key, as downtime ranges from a weekend inconvenience for homeowners to an expensive delay for professional landscapers, he adds.
“Dealers should consider carrying a brand that offers a complete line and is well-accepted by OEMs in order to fit customer needs and match their equipment specs.”
Miller estimates that 40 SKUs will cover the market, but he narrows the most popular sizes down to a handful: 13x6.50-6, 24x12.00-12, 23x10.50-12, 26x12.00-12, and 20x10.00-10.
In addition to those sizes, which Carlisle’s Preheim agrees are popular on the commercial side, he also advises dealers to stock 24x9.50-12 and 22x11.00-10 rear drive sizes, as well as 9x3.50-4, 11x4.00-5, 13x5.00-6 sizes for the front.
Seven sizes 15x6.00-6, 16x6.50-8, 18x8.50-8, 18x9.50-8, 20X8.00-8, 20x10.00-8, and 22x9.50-12 cover most of the residential mower segment, according to Preheim.
“Many sizes are used in both the residential and the commercial segments,” he explains. “The commercial segment needs more robust tires due to the longer hours of use. The primary differentiators are ply rating, tread pattern, tread depth and tread compound.”
The bias-ply tires that comprise the lawn and garden segment are made with several ply ratings 2-, 4-, 6- or 8-ply and different tread patterns that often are application-specific.
To accommodate tightened budgets resulting from the recent economic recession, lawn equipment makers have introduced some smaller units offered at a lower price point.
“The majority of tread patterns in this segment need to be considered turf-friendly, but at the same time they must provide grip without slipping,” Kenda’s Miller explains. “Wear and puncture resistance also play a very important role in selection.”
Several main tread patterns are offered by tire manufacturers to match the following applications:
Chevron turf tire:
Good for home lawn tractors and most consumer-grade turf equipment.
Diamond turf tire:
Designed for commercial lawn equipment, with better traction and deeper tread.
Modified chevron turf tire:
A combination of a more aggressive bar tread and a more turf-friendly chevron tread; good for areas where traction is more important.
Bar tread tire:
Similar to agricultural tread, this tire is all about traction. Deep lugs give excellent traction regardless of the terrain.
This tire is completely smooth, as it was designed for use on zero turn mowers.
Straight rib tire:
This tires features shallow ribs for turf protection, while still providing a minimal amount of traction.
Miller says the Kenda K500, K505 and K513 were developed more for the commercial market, while the tiremaker’s K358 and K382 are more for the residential market.
“There are plenty of tread patterns available from Kenda that will cover specific needs,” he adds.
Preheim points to the Carlisle Turf Saver and Turf Saver II as the company’s most commonly used offerings in the residential segment on front engine riders.
“The Carlisle Turf Master and Multi Trac C/S are very popular as rear drive tires on commercial segment zero turning radius (ZTR) mowers, while smooth and rib tires are common for the front swivel casters,” he says.
For tire dealers who are new to the segment or need to re-examine their sales strategy in this market Preheim advises they assess the market needs of the region to ensure they stock and sell tires that potential buyers want.
“Polling local lawn maintenance companies about the type of equipment they use, the tire sizes they need and their maintenance routine will help focus the inventory decisions,” he says.
The key to success in this niche is being able to quickly meet customer needs and provide knowledgeable service and dealers who do so can grow some hefty profits.