Lawn and Landscape Tire Market Ready to Grow - Tire Review Magazine

Lawn and Landscape Tire Market Ready to Grow

Despite a slow start this spring, tiremakers in the lawn and landscape segment expect steady growth - and dealers who put in the effort can expect steady profits.

Some say the number of garage doors left open on any given weekend can be a good indicator of the lawn and landscape tire market.

“Right now, none are open,” quips Jeff Nowlin, sales manager at Martin Wheel/Kenda Group, who says a customer once relayed that folksy correlation. “To date, (sales within the segment) have been very sluggish in the aftermarket. I believe this is a direct result of the recent long and cold winter.”

Where are those warm-weather trends when dealers of residential lawn/garden and commercial landscape tires need them?

“Unusually nice weather started the 2012 season early,” says Brian Preheim, outdoor power equipment (OPE) product marketing manager at Carlisle Transportation Products. “In comparison, 2013 has had a slower start. But the moisture received across much of the country should extend the selling season.”

Preheim does, however, see the segment slowly rebounding from the economic decline of 2008. He says Carlisle has experienced gains in both residential and commercial OPE replacements. So, while he says the market for OE sales has been flat, he does see signs of growth.

“In talking with our customers,” Nowlin agrees, “2013 may be flat due to consumer confidence. Wall Street may be going great guns, but Main Street is finding things a little difficult.”

“We expect greater growth overall by the end of the year,” adds Bill Haney, sales manager for BKT USA Inc. “This will be due to an upcoming change in shipping strategy that will enhance even more the concept of freight savings.”

Haney says BKT’s replacement sales had a 100% increase in 2012 over 2011. “These tires make natural container fill tires to optimize the space available in the shipping containers with larger tires,” he says. “Our customers like this extra dimension.”

One of the things driving sales in the segment is technological advancement. BKT, for example, includes aramid cord and high-quality compounds in its products. Meanwhile, Kenda’s “hot button,” in Nowlin’s terms, is the flat-free tire. “Most manufacturers of higher-end or commercial products insist that the steering and gauge wheels be flat-free,” he says.

Common Lawn/Landscape Tire Sizes
Residential Mowers:
15X6.00-6, 16X6.50-8, 18X8.50-8, 18X9.50-8, 20X8.00-8,
20X10.00-8, 22X9.50-12
Commercial Equipment:
Rear: 24X12.00-12, 24X9.50-12, 22X11.00-10, 26X12.00-12,
23X10.50-12, 23X9.50-12
Front: 9X3.50-4, 11X4.00-5, 13X5.00-6, 13X6.50-6

Kenda offers about 300 tires in the OPE consumer and commercial marketplaces. Nowlin says that, based on 2012 sales, 40 SKUs represented about 70% of the company’s sales. “I think that, if the average dealer restricted his inventory to four-ply pro­duct only, he could probably serve the largest portion of his market with 24 SKUs in stock,” he adds.

Preheim breaks down Carlisle’s SKU count to including about seven in the residential mower market, six among common rear drive sizes, and four in the front niche, with about 20 covering most of the market. “Many sizes are used in both the residential and 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 com-pound.”

Dealer Considerations
But tire dealers entering this market for the first time needn’t worry about ordering too much stock, Haney advises. “These tires do not represent high cost versus other types of tires,” he says. “For a low investment, they can carry a high-profit item.”

There are, however, other things for a new dealer to consider.

“The biggest issue will be familiarity,” Nowlin says. “The average tire dealer knows the automotive and light-truck market. OPE products are an entirely different animal. Not only does he have the issue of sizes and applications, the average tire dealer doesn’t know how to service, nor does he have the appropriate equipment to service, these products.”

Among the differences between a lawn/landscape tire and a standard P-metric are that passenger car tires have radial construction, while this niche is bias-ply. “The wear resistance and comfort or ride are not as critical here as they are for automotive tires,” Nowlin says. “But the size spec is very critical, as it affects cutting efficiency.”

So, Preheim strongly suggests that new dealers research and assess the segment. “They should assess the market needs of the region they service to ensure they stock and sell tires that buyers want,” he says. “They also should speak with local lawn maintenance companies about the type of equipment they use, the tire sizes they need, and their maintenance routine. That will help focus inventory decisions.”

Customer Demands
Exactly what does a typical buyer want?

Haney summarizes it in terms of high quality and long life for commercial users, and convenient availability for residential users. But Preheim suggests otherwise: “Availability is important for both segments, but particularly for the commercial users. Any downtime from yard maintenance cuts into their livelihood.”

Meanwhile, Nowlin says consumer product buyers are swayed by price, as well as by whether the replacement tire is the same kind originally on their mower. Commercial product users, however, “are all about hours of service,” he says. “The more hours they can have a machine running, the better their overall picture will be.”

In the end, there are virtually as many tread patterns as there are applications for which the tires are used.

Kenda’s Turf Rider and Grass Hopper, for example, are not only for consumer and commercial equipment, but also for golf and utility vehicles. Its Turf Pro is a consumer product made especially for lower-ended rear-engine riders and lawn tractors. The company’s K500 Super Turf and Turf 505/K513/K507 primarily are used on commercial cutting units and zero turning radius (ZTR) mowers. And its Rib and Smooth tires both are used on consumer and commercial products.

As for Carlisle, it offers the Turf Master and Multi Trac C/S, which are popularly used as rear drive tires on commercial segment ZTRs, while its Smooth and Rib tires are commonly used for front swivel casters. The company’s new Turf Smart line provides enhanced traction through better design and a new groove ejection system that promotes self-cleaning. It’s directed toward the commercial segment as a rear ZTR drive tire.

So, whether a customer comes from an industrial, commercial, home or even farming environment, the sales potential seems huge for this small tire niche.

Nevermind the slow spring. Garage doors are opening everywhere.  

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