Whilst conditions outside today are hardly conducive to inspiring customers to leave their house to buy a lawnmower, I attended an event this week which was looking forward to the start of the selling season.
The Garden Press Event, which was held for the first time at the Business Design Centre in Islington on Wednesday, is a boutique exhibition which allows companies to show off their latest offerings, exclusively to members of the gardening press.
I have attended the day for the past few years now and there has traditionally been around just 3 or 4 machinery exhibitors. The majority of the show is comprised of plant bulbs, seeds, gardening gloves and the like. However, on Wednesday there was a noticeably much increased presence of exhibitors relevant to our sector.
From memory, there was STIHL, John Deere, Ego, Cobra, Honda, Robomow, Stiga, Bosch, Makita, Cub Cadet, Webb, GreenWorks, and Gardena. Apologies to anyone I missed out (and indeed to anyone I failed to get around to speaking to - it was a busy day!).
It does raise the question though, why the significant increase in machinery exhibitors at this particular event this year?
It's difficult to say, but a common element which linked many of these exhibitors was battery power. There's no doubt that manufacturers are excited about the appeal these machines are finding with customers and are wanting to put the word out there that there's very much more to come.
Battery power's ascendance is clearly a worldwide trend. I saw some news from the American Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) this week which said their Market Statistics Forecast Advisory Subcommittee had met recently to review 2017 data and consider updated industry and economic forecasts for 2018 and 2019.
They concluded that the outdoor power equipment industry growth in 2017 in the United States was largely driven by battery/electric-powered products as well as commercial mowing equipment (this being underpinned by steady growth in the U.S. housing market and the overall strength of the U.S. economy currently). Industry projections for 2018 and 2019 continue to be positive, they said, based on signs of continued overall economic expansion.
Battery powered machines were certainly to the fore on many manufacturer's stands in Islington this week. And the significance of their display at this particular show, which attracts many members of the mainstream consumer press, rather than just trade journals, shows how keen the industry is to let the public know that these machines are the future.
We'll include some increased detail on some of the cordless developments shown in the May/June issue of Service Dealer magazine, but of particular interest were STIHL's first orange liveried cordless lawnmowers. The phasing out of the Viking brand is underway with the five models they were promoting - two of which are part of their Compact Cordless range with the other three models suitable for larger gardens.
Also gaining attention was Ego's first dedicated range of commercial cordless garden tools which comprised a hedge trimmer, a commercial line trimmer, and a blower.
Talking to exhibitors, they clearly believe that battery products are more important than ever. Crucially they also believe that a real corner has been turned with their acceptance.
Domestic users accept them. Commercial users are increasingly utilising them. And importantly, dealers are embracing the new opportunities which they afford.