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OTR/Ag/Specialty Tires

Lawn and Garden Segment Returning to Slow, Steady Growth

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As was the trend with the majority of tire segments, the lawn and garden niche suffered during the economic slump of 2009. But tiremakers are optimistic, and a surge in sales of both residential and commercial landscaping equipment this spring has jump-started the segment’s recent growth.

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“The lawn and garden market has some correlation to the housing market and was negatively impacted by the economic downturn. The major segments experienced two years of double digit declines,” says Brian Preheim, consumer and commercial product manager for Carlisle Tire & Wheel Co.

One positive that tire dealers experienced in 2009 was homeowners opted to repair instead of replace equipment, according to Carl Miller, vice president of sales and marketing for Monitor Manufacturing Co., a division of Kenda Tire USA.

“This trend was reflected in low sales of new mowers in big-box stores,” he says, estimating the overall lawn and garden market was down over 40% last year. With owners trying to extend the life of their mowing machines, dealers had an added opportunity to make replacement tire sales.

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Both companies agree that sales are picking up and are optimistic for a return to steady growth.

“There has been a surge in sales in late spring, which gives a little hope for an extended sales season and higher numbers than last year,” Miller says. “Let’s hope it continues to improve over the next few years.”
Carlisle's Turf Master
“There have been some increases in unit sales so far this year, which is encouraging. The future forecasts I’ve seen show a modest upward trend,” says Carlisle’s Preheim.

Another piece of good news for tire dealers: “As long as the dealer takes the time to understand the market needs in his or her area and establishes a good delivery system for the goods and services desired, these specialty tires can be a profitable opportunity,” Preheim says.

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With little upfront investment and a relatively low number of SKUs to stock, entering the lawn and garden segment can quickly boost a dealer’s profits. There is no balancing invol­ved with the off-road, low speed tires. And as for mounting, it is helpful to have a small, manual mounting machine, according to Miller.

When considering entering this niche segment, first look at your particular area: Are there many other tire dealers nearby that already have a well-established customer base in this market? Are there a lot of golf courses or commericial landscaping companies? Ideally, you would face little competition and have a large group of potential customers.

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The key to keeping customers happy, especially commercial landscapers who need to avoid downtime – is to stock popular sizes. Preheim notes 24×12.00-12 is a common rear tire size for zero turning radius mowers. Front caster tires are often 13x­5.00-6 or 13×6.50-6 in a smooth or a rib tread. Miller says other common sizes include 23×10.50-12, 20×10.00-10, 26×12.00-12, and the semi-pneumatic front caster assemblies.

Have these tires in stock and ready to be sold in the spring, which is the prime time for lawn and garden tire sales.

“Lawn and garden equipment isn’t always designed with generous clearance, so it’s typical to replace worn tires with the same size, type, and brand utilized by the original equipment manufacturer,” Preheim says. “The aggressiveness of the tread pattern must match the traction requirements of the application in which it will be used. Also, the load capacity of the tire should be adequate for the load requirements of the equipment.”
Kenda's K505
“For commercial customers, dealers should recommend at least 4-ply rated tires,” says Miller. “Tread wear and traction are also a consideration with commercial users. For residential customers, a 2-ply rated tire is sufficient.”

The difference between lawn and garden tires and P-metric tires is clear just based on looks alone, but there are also significant structural differences.

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“Normally, the ‘P’ stands for a passenger tire, which indicates high speed and over-the-road application,” Miller says. “Lawn and garden tires are low speed, off-road tires; their construction and tread compounds are different from P-metric tires.”

In addition, lawn and garden tires are almost always bias-ply construction, whereas passenger tires are almost always a radial design, Preheim notes.

He says the Turf Master and Multi Trac tread patterns are Carlisle’s primary tires for the professional segment, along with the smooth and rib front caster tires. The Turf Saver is the tiremaker’s highest volume tire in the residential market.

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Popular tires from Kenda in this segment include Super Turf, K505 and K507.

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