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Maintaining the Green: Helping Landscapes Grow

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michelin-tweel

Michelin’s new Tweel technology is OE on John Deere ZTrak 900 Series mowers.

As the economy continues to recover, the landscape service industry is poised for growth in 2015 and beyond. This growth can translate into a little extra money for tire dealers prepared to service the commercial landscape market.

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For tire dealers, the landscaping business offers many potential sales. Lawn care and landscape companies utilize light trucks and trailers to move equipment, some use skid-steers and back hoes, and most use commercial mowers and utility tractors. For the purpose of this article, Tire Review will focus on tires for mowers and utility tractors, but it is important to note other needs exist in this market segment.

According to IBIS World’s “Landscaping Services in the U.S.” report, the landscape market is expected to grow steadily through 2020 at a rate of 3.2%. The report points to an increase in construction as well as an increase in per capita disposable income as reasons for this expansion.

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In step with this data, Kenda USA says the outlook for the 2015 commercial landscape tire market is good.

“2015 will be stronger than 2014, especially if gas prices stay down,” Hank Chang, industrial manager for Kenda, says. “If the economy continues to grow, that will lead the industry to follow.”

Gallagher Tire Inc., a wholesale distributor of specialty tires, anticipates a strong year for the lawn and garden tire market, noting sales thus far would reinforce this expectation.

“Many landscapers supplement their summer lawn care business with snowplowing in the winter,” Gallagher Tire says. “This past winter, the northeastern region of the country experienced significant snowfall. This spring, we are anticipating many of these landscapers now have the means to refurbish their equipment with new tires.”

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Gallagher Tire also notes that the marketplace is highly influenced by weather. Because of this, dealers should expect slow periods followed by very hectic ones.

Servicing the Customer

kenda-K500-1423

Kenda’s Super Turf K500 is designed for commercial and heavy residential use.

When it comes to tire performance, landscape companies have higher expectations than the consumer lawn care segment.

“Commercial customers want traction, wear, turf friendliness, looks and puncture resistance,” Kenda’s Chang shares. “Consumers’ main concern is the tire to hold air.”

Kerry Cline, CEO and owner of C&S Lawn Service Landscaping in Akron, says when it comes to tires for his mowers and utility tractors, he wants them to last as long as possible. Cline notes that he doesn’t want a tread pattern that’s so aggressive that it’ll tear up the turf, but he also doesn’t want a pattern that won’t stick to the hillside.

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Ryan Knotek, owner of Imperial Landscape and Construction in Cleveland, says before each season he likes to bring his mowers in to get them serviced and the tires checked. During these services, he likes to go over his potential tire needs for the year.

A big concern for both owners is downtime. The two try to schedule service in advance if possible, but if there’s a flat, they often need same-day service.

To help companies avoid downtime, Kenda and Gallagher Tire recommend keeping the most popular tire sizes in stock.

“Dealers must be prepared to stock the popular sizes because the commercial landscaper cannot afford to have any equipment downtime,” Gallagher Tire shares. “Be prepared to service their equipment right away. If it is not operational, their business is losing money.”

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Gallagher Tire notes that sometimes companies are prepared to pay a premium for this emergency service.

Chang also recommends stocking more front tires than rear because front tires tend to go flat quicker.

“Front tires are usually a smaller and shallower tread depth tire that is easier to puncture,” he says. “It is also moving around more area than the rear and that increases the chance to catch things.”

The top five sizes in the commercial landscape market are 18×8.50-8, 24×12.00-12, 16×6.50-8, 13×6.50-6 and 13×5.00-6, according to Gallagher Tire.

In addition to keeping tires in stock, it’s critical for dealers to familiarize themselves with the different tires and applications.

“Like the passenger and light truck market, there is a wide spectrum of quality and technology in the lawn and garden segment. It is critical to choose the right tire for a particular application,” Gallagher Tire says.

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Like other tire segments, its important to educate the commercial landscape tire buyer on the importance of tire maintenance in an effort to get the most out of the tire, Gallagher Tire notes.

Chang also encourages dealers to promote quality tires over price because dealers shouldn’t want the product they sell to keep coming back.

Dealers can learn more about tires by talking directly to the manufacturers, with distributors or by checking out product catalogs.

New Trends

Technology comes slower to the landscape tire market than other tire segments. Many tires used by the industry are still bias.

One emerging trend offered by tire manufacturers is flat-proof tires, Chang says. These tire options can help landscape companies cut down on machine downtime.

Several tire manufacturers offer a flat-proof option. Kenda offers ultralight flat-proof tires, Chang shares. Additionally, Michelin North America just entered the landscape tire market with its flat-proof Tweel option.

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Michelin’s X Tweel Turf, in size 24x12x12, is OE on John Deere’s ZTrak 900 Series line-up of zero-turn commercial mowers. A Michelin spokesperson tells Tire Review that while it’s Piedmont, S.C., facility will be tied up making OE tires through 2015, it will start producing replacement tires in 2016.

Replacement tires are currently scheduled to sell through John Deere equipment dealers, but the tiremaker is still exploring other distribution options.

Getting in the Biz

For tire dealers looking to add lawn care tires to their offerings, the addition can be made fairly simply.

“You can evolve your consumer tire business into a ‘One Stop Shop’ for all of you customer’s tire needs. By offering lawn and garden tires, it opens up the opportunity to sell other specialty tire categories, like trailer tires, inner tubes, wheels, etc.,” Gallagher Tire shares.

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The wholesale distributor notes there is very little investment for a tire dealer to make to have the capability to service lawn and garden tires. Many dealers already have the equipment needed and not much space is required to work on landscape equipment, Gallagher Tire says.

And although tire dealers are uniquely poised to capture the market, dealers will have to make an investment in marketing.

Dealers will have to invest in promotion and advertising to let commercial landscape companies know it carries the right product, Kenda’s Chang shared.

 

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