Dealers getting it right
by Service Dealer Editor, Steve Gibbs
Steve Gibbs

As well as considering the cancellation of this year's SALTEX, our discussion with a panel of dealers this week concerned how vital it is to get safety measures in place correctly now.



Service Dealer convened another group video call this Wednesday, this time once again welcoming a panel of dealers from around the country - as well as representatives from our trade associations.


Following the meeting Service Dealer owner Duncan Murray-Clarke, said, "It is good to see the responsible and inventive way in which dealers have been approaching business over the weeks and it certainly feels like we are entering another phase.


"I am sure we will be seeing many more dealers open one way or another.”



Trade events


As you might imagine, responding to recent news, the conversation began by considering what might be in store for industry events as we move through 2020. The discussion was inspired following last week's postponement of Stiga's dealer conference and the news which broke on Tuesday this week that SALTEX will no longer go ahead this November.


The shifting of the GMA's exhibition until March 2021 was clearly a massive decision for the association and one which it was necessary to make and announce early. It was a pragmatic choice which no one can be too surprised about. If anything it shines a light on autumn's other industry shows, Glee and APF, which at the moment according to their websites, are still going ahead.


Shifting SALTEX to March next year does of course re-ignite a couple of age-old debates surrounding shows in our industry.


Firstly, timing. Is it ideal for dealers? Probably not really. But the GMA's first responsibility is of course, to their professional end-user members. For those turf professionals it's the beginning of the growing season, so maybe it works quite well? For dealers looking for inspiration for new products to stock in their stores, perhaps not so much?


Secondly, it's that old chestnut, does the outdoor power equipment industry actually need more than one major show per year? The newly timed SALTEX will kick off less than six weeks after BIGGA's BTME exhibition in Harrogate. In all honesty, this isn't much different to the late-October / early November to mid-January gap between the shows that we've become accustomed to in recent years. However, that Christmas and New Year gap in the middle somehow acted to separate the shows - if only psychologically. Now they feel like they really are on top of each other (presuming that BIGGA's show is able to go ahead as planned come January!)


I suppose the simple answer is 'the industry' could cope with a single major exhibition each year - but the two professional trade associations probably couldn't.


Working safely


Moving on, the talk on the call this week turned to how dealers were moving forward now lockdown is slowly beginning to ease. One of the key elements to a successful progression over the next few months will be the physical transformations dealers will need to put in place in their places of business. Showrooms especially will need to comply with social distancing guidelines for the safety of staff of customers alike.


We heard varying reports that some manufacturers and suppliers are offering their dealers, at a charge, branded signage and floor stickers etc, to kit out their showrooms - and some are not. 


Some dealers are preferring to do things for themselves anyway, setting up their stores so they work safely for their needs. Examples such as customers only being allowed into certain areas of the store and then the dealership staff helping them with what they want, were discussed. Or others are making customers wait outside with equipment brought out to be viewed. 


Hayes Garden Machinery


A common theme with the various methods we heard, was that it was the dealership dictating to the customers what they can and can't do. They aren't leaving it up to the customer to act responsibly. If the dealer has stringent and clear procedures in place, there is little room for the customer to do anything which may be breaking the rules or acting in a potentially hazardous manor.


To this end, some dealers aren't ready to open quite yet. The key is to get things right. As we move through this thing, it's becoming clearer that social distancing measures across society are not just going to be in place for the next few weeks - they will need to be in situ for the foreseeable future. Therefore it's important that the correct changes are made now, so there aren't issues further down the line.


For the up to date guidance regarding the obligations retailers may need to fulfil once they are open, the official government guidelines can be found here.


Brisk business


The positive news is that for those who have been trading, business has been brisk. Especially so for dealers in the agricultural and domestic sectors - see the story today that Honda are reporting sales exceeding expectations in April. And now with the golf courses and parks coming back to life, the commercial dealers have also seen enquiries coming through.


We heard reports of some very satisfied customers who dealers have been able to help during this stressful time. Be they farmers whose machines have been kept running, or gardeners who have able to look after their lawns whilst being stuck at home.


It is always nice to receive feedback that your hard work has been appreciated. So let's hope all these recent efforts by dealers adapting to the situation - offering click & collect facilities or making safe deliveries for example - translates into on-going customer loyalty and long-term relationships.


You will remember what businesses have been there for you as we move through this - and so will your customers.

We are all adapting
by Duncan Murray-Clarke, Service Dealer owner
Duncan Murray-Clarke, Service Dealer owner

As of today (Friday 22nd May 2020) TAP, the owners of Service Dealer, are temporarily of “no fixed abode” - and I am genuinely excited about it!


Like most of you I have found the last few months completely different. My heart goes out to those who have suffered loss personally and/or been heavily hit commercially by the virus.


I have also had my patience tested to the limits with home schooling (which is shoe-horned somehow around work), painted the house a funny colour and never walked so much in my life. My family and I though are very lucky to live somewhere where we can escape into the great outdoors and actually have the time to appreciate it.


As far as work goes we are also on the whole very lucky. We rely mainly on people needing to eat (agriculture) and the grass growing (ground care). Sadly the 3rd area is travel (travel retail) which as you can imagine is another story and has been completely closed down and with no real prospect of an early solution. But we are in the fortunate position of not having to furlough any staff.


What we have been as an agency and group of companies though is very creative and agile. I have been delighted with just how well things have worked with the team. On 16th March I warned staff that we might have to all work remotely at some point very soon. The next day, some of the staff were tucking all their IT and telecoms equipment under their arms and heading off to set up home offices.



By the end of that week we were fully operational and had come up with the #lockdownLearning initiative with our colleagues at Eat Farm Now (since been adopted by the BBC and many others). We have been developing content ideas like the weekly kids series “Why are farmers so smelly?” with Charlie Baker. We even managed to rope in Countryfile’s Adam Henson who was Charlie’s second victim.


Since then we have been doing all we can to keep the ground care and ag machinery industry connected in the UK by chairing weekly calls (yes sorry, on Zoom) with key manufacturers and dealers. And in the next few weeks we will be distributing our free insight report on perceptions of tractor brands. The team is thriving on solving the challenges that this unusual situation has created. It has been incredibly busy.


Now, if you had asked me 6 months ago if a media and content agency could work effectively under these circumstances I would have given you a big “NO”. Well, I have not only painted the house grey, but this week we move out of our offices in Pipe House. Our offices happened to be out of contract and when the landlord’s agent emailed me, two weeks into lockdown with a proposition to sign up for another five years and nearly doubling the rent, I politely declined. In reality there couldn’t be a better time to move out as everything is working smoothly without the offices.


So, I guess I am announcing that as of today (Friday 22nd May 2020) we are temporarily “no fixed abode” and I am genuinely excited about it.


It means that we have options for when things settle down (and no one really knows when that will be). We will re-settle somewhere when this happens and we are all thoroughly sick of Zoom and Teams! But in the meantime, we are not paying rent, rates and insurance on 2,000 sq feet of unused offices.


We are trying to “Work Smarter” which funnily enough is the theme of our Service Dealer Conference in November. I wonder what shape and form that is going to be? Who knows, but the content we have lined up is going to be spot on.

Rescheduled to March 2021
SALTEX will now take place March 3-4 2021

This week's WEB ONLY story is that the Grounds Management Association’s Board of Directors announced on Wednesday that they have taken the unanimous decision to move SALTEX to early Spring 2021.


Leaves post after 8 months
Ed Hansom

Edward (Ed) Hansom has left his post as Chief Executive of The Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE).


The Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) has announced the departure of its CEO, Ed Hansom, ‘with immediate effect’.


In thanking Mr Hansom for the work he had done during his relatively short time with the Institution, IAgrE President Paul Hemingway said, “In view of the times in which we find ourselves and the changing work practices forced upon us, I am recommending to the IAgrE Executive Committee that we take some time to reprise the situation before seeking a replacement CEO.”


Mr Hansom was appointed during last summer to replace the retiring CEO, Alastair Taylor, and took up his post on 2 September 2019.


Prior to joining IAgrE, Mr Hansom spent 8 years in the navy where he was a marine engineer officer on various ships, saw active service in the Gulf before taking a shore post at the Defence Research Agency at West Drayton. In 2008, he joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) as a professional development adviser prior to his appointment as IAgrE CEO.

Front mounted ATV products
MKM Agriculture have taken on UK & Ireland distribution of Rammy equipment

Bedford-based dealership say they are looking to set up a specialist dealer network across the UK and Ireland for the Finnish-built equipment.


MKM Agriculture Ltd, the Bedford-based dealers, have announced they have taken on the UK and Ireland distribution for the range of Finnish-built Rammy front mounted ATV products.



Managing director, Anthony Deacon, told Service Dealer this week, "We will actively be supplying their front mounted flail mower and rotary brushcutter / mower and will also be able to supply the snow blowers.


"We believe the front mounted machines offer many benefits to trailed machines. The rotary brushcutter / mower for example is unique as it can cut through trees up to 4” in diameter - making it a very useful all round machine for the forestry, agricultural and hunting sectors."


MKM say they are looking to set up a specialist dealer network across the UK and Ireland. Interested dealers can contact Anthony on 01234 768889 or info@mkmagri.com.


Rammy Rotary mower 120 ATV PRO

Replaced by a one-day digital event
by Chris Biddle
Oxford Farming Conference

Organisers have announced the cancellation of the 2021 Oxford Farming Conference scheduled for January. It is to be replaced by a one-day online event and a series of online debates from June to December 2020.


The organisers of the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) have announced that the 2021 Conference, scheduled for January at Oxford University, has been cancelled.


OFC Chairman, Sally Williams, says, “Amidst the Covid uncertainty for people, travel and gatherings the OFC Council has talked long and hard about how we best deliver a successful and focussed event for our 75th conference in 2021."

She added, “We run the event at break-even or a slight loss, so the uncertainty of booking the Oxford University only for us to have to cancel due to the pandemic is something we felt we could not support.


“Instead the event will be replaced by a one-day online conference on Thursday 7 January 2021, which will include politics, inspiring farmers, the Frank Parkinson Lecture, and the OFC Debate, providing a provocative virtual experience with the opportunity for you to engage through online networking and Q & A”.

She added, “Through the use of digital tools, we will be able to provide a rich experience bringing together international speakers who we might otherwise have not been able to include.”


To commemorate the influence of the event and the speakers that the Conference has attracted over the year, they are launching OFC Bitesize – a webinar series that will pick a theme from a past conference and debate its sentiments.

Hosted on the first Thursday of every month from June to December 2020, they will take place for one hour from 12pm, drawing opinion from a host of different businesses and geographies.


The first, on Thursday 4 June 2020 will revisit the 1939 Conference which investigated the Business Organisation of Farming, a topic that is of critical relevance today as we face an agricultural transition period that shifts responsibility for farm viability from the government to farm businesses themselves.


What role should supply chains have in farm business viability? Are the supply chain provisions of the Ag Bill an opportunity, or a threat, to UK farming businesses? Our panel will explore the topic along with farm business structures, agricultural subsidies and what the Business Organisation of Farming means in 2020 and beyond.


  • President of the Tenant Farmers Association George Dunn
  • Institutional Agricultural Investor and Nuffield Scholar Angus Selby
  • Scottish Land and Estates CEO Sarah-Jayne Laing
  • Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon


  • OFC Director and Head of Rural Research at Savills UK, Emily Norton

Full details and to register

Lawn & garden products prove popular during lockdown
Tiller sales outstripped their month target by 327%

Honda UK Lawn & Garden have said April exceeded their month sales goal by 10%, with tillers outselling expectations three-fold.


Honda UK Lawn & Garden have announced that their sales for April exceeded their month goal by 10%, with tillers in particular selling extremely well under lockdown, outselling expectations three-fold.



The company said that their tiller sales outstripped their target by 327%, meaning that they hit a quarter of their annual sales target during the period of lockdown in April.


The manufacturer says they also saw success with their izy lawnmowers too, which accounted for 42% of Honda Lawn & Garden’s April sales. The HRG 416 PKEH model topped their charts.

Their new Small Miimo robotic mower also performed well the company says, making up 78% of Honda UK’s robotic lawnmower sales in the month.


In a statement Honda attribute some of the month's success to their ongoing ‘Trade In To Trade Up’ savings campaign. With £100 off Small Miimo, £75 off petrol izy and electric izy-On push mowers and £50 savings on tillers, there’s various deals available that apply widely to the Lawn & Garden product range - runing until September 30th 2020, online and in dealers.

Steve Morris, head of power products at Honda (UK) said, “It’s great that we have managed to overachieve this month despite the circumstances. I’m delighted to see the public making the most of the brilliant weather and lockdown conditions, too, tending to their gardens to make them summer-ready with a Honda power tool”.

Added option during lockdown
JCB has delivered its first machines ordered online to Focal Landscapes owner Marc Woodward in Dorset

JCB has sold their first machine via their new order online option, launched to support businesses with their requirements during the Covid-19 lockdown.


JCB has started to sell machines online for the first time in its history.


The company say they have introduced the new order online option to support businesses with their plant requirements during the Covid-19 lockdown.


Focal Landscapes owner Marc Woodward


A Poole-based company called Focal Landscapes became the first customer to purchase their machines online, buying a 8008 micro excavator and a HTD-5 tracked dumper direct via the website direct.jcb.com - with the manufacturer saying order to delivery took less than a week.


Focal Landscapes owner Marc Woodward said, “You get all the benefits of an online purchase, but you also start a relationship with the manufacturer. That gives access to JCB Finance and JCB support. I’ve already been introduced to my local JCB dealer Holt JCB and been able to purchase a range of attachments for my new excavator."


JCB UK and Ireland sales director Steve Smith said, “We are determined to support our customers’ machine requirements during the challenging current Covid-19 crisis. The new service gives customers the ability to buy some of JCB’s most popular products online, directly from the manufacturer, with no need to meet face-to-face or leave their homes.”


The JCB machines available to purchase on line are the 8008 micro excavator; the 16C-1, 18Z-1 and 8026 mini excavators; the HTD5 Dumpster; the 1T-2 site dumper and S1930 and S2632 scissor lifts.


Available to UK mainland customers, buying online using JCB Finance, website visitors select the model and pay a £100 ’holding fee’ to secure their machine.


They will then be contacted by JCB Finance to complete the application and the machine will be delivered by JCB.

In south-west England
Bobcat has made changes to its dealer network in south-west England

TVE Hire & Sales Ltd, based in Abingdon in Oxfordshire, has been awarded an expanded territory and JJ Farm Services in Cheltenham is newly appointed.


Bobcat has announced important changes in the company’s dealer network for south-west England.



TVE Hire & Sales Ltd (TVE), the authorised Bobcat dealer based in Abingdon in Oxfordshire, has been awarded an expanded territory. With the addition of the counties of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to its current area, TVE will now be responsible for customers in seven counties, including Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.


John Christofides, regional sales director, UK/Ireland, Nordics and Baltics for Bobcat EMEA, said, “Following the excellent results delivered by TVE in its first three years as a Bobcat dealer, with market share increases of up to 15% in its area, we are delighted to recognise this with the addition of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to its existing area.”


TVE has also taken on a caretaker role providing continuity for sales, service and parts for new and existing Bobcat products in the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, in anticipation of new announcements to be made by Bobcat regarding these counties.


Mat Jones, sales manager at TVE Hire & Sales Ltd, said, “We are very gratified that our performance since we became a Bobcat dealer has been rewarded with an expanded territory for sales, service and parts for all of the Bobcat range. Customers new and old in Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall can also be assured of full continuity in Bobcat service in our caretaker role for these counties.”


In addition, Bobcat, as part of the company’s mission to expand its presence in the agricultural sector, has appointed Cheltenham-based JJ Farm Services Ltd as the authorised Dealer for their range of telescopic loaders for the agricultural market in Gloucestershire.


Ewen Gilchrist, network development manager UK & Nordics for Doosan Bobcat EMEA, said, “I would like to welcome JJ Farm Services to the fold. We look forward to many years of working together with them in the agricultural market.”

Claydon Drills connects with customers
Jeff Claydon (right) presenting the virtual demo day

The family-owned UK company made the most of technology recently to communicate with customers during the UK-wide lockdown.


Claydon Drills has made the most of technology to communicate with customers during the UK-wide lockdown.


Jeff Claydon (right) presenting the virtual demo day


The company was unable to host its usual series of annual open days at the company’s factory and 340-hectare arable farm in Wickhambrook, Suffolk during May because of the outbreak. Instead, it filmed a Virtual Open Day to enable farmers to experience the latest developments without travelling.


“Our open days have been a feature of the farming calendar for many years and normally attract hundreds of existing and potential customers from across the UK and overseas. They allow us to pass on the latest information to help farmers produce better crops more efficiently, and showcase our products,” Jeff Claydon, the company’s founder and Chief Executive, said.


“Our company has been built on innovation, so rather than call off this year’s event, we decided to take the open days to our customers.”


Entitled ‘Soil: its health, our future’ the event covered a range of soil, crop, and machinery-related topics, starting with a presentation by Jeff Claydon on the importance of optimising soil health and how to achieve it.


During a tour of the farm Dick Neale, Technical Manager for leading agronomy company Hutchinsons, emphasised the importance of soil structure, how to assess and measure it using a slake test, soil nutrient indices and the critical role of earthworms in optimising the movement of water and air through the soil profile.


Oliver Claydon


The Virtual Open Day also saw Spencer Claydon, commercial director, discuss the importance of the company’s TerraBlade inter-row hoe, a mechanical method of controlling weeds in all types of combinable, band-sown crops. Oliver Claydon, operations and manufacturing director, then talked through the key benefits of the Claydon Hybrid drill, cornerstone of the Claydon Opti-Till System.

New normal under lockdown
Toro parts

"Customers should not have noticed any difference," says parts manager Michael Hampton.


Reesink UK have said their parts supply system has maintained delivering customers what they need during this period of lockdown.


Michael Hampton, Reesink’s parts manager said, “Of course the situation is far from normal, but what we have here at Reesink is a new normal. One which we’re delighted to say is working.


“Customers should not have noticed any difference with regards to parts ordering and support. We have a complete range of all items in stock and we’re still able to have orders ready for dispatch in ample time for delivery within 24 hours to our customers.


“We have experienced some issues with our carriers, but those problems were expected, we had a contingency and they didn’t last long. So far we have been able to deliver our customers’ requirements whether that’s delivering to their location or via non-contact collection.”


Michael says most orders pertain to maintenance and repair work: “The majority of our orders are for repair work to keep essential equipment operational and working safely. Contacting us for genuine spare parts is the same as it always was for customers. Emails, phone and internet are all running as usual and there have been no delays to responding to our customers’ enquiries.”


Reesink, who is the UK distributor for Toro golf and sports fields equipment, grounds machinery, irrigation products and genuine Toro Parts, say they have been continually impressed - and thankful - throughout these weeks of lockdown for the people working tirelessly throughout the entire supply system that has meant it’s seemingly business as usual for its customers.


Michael concluded, “Maintaining business as usual in these unprecedented times takes a village and everyone has stepped up to continue delivering the kind of reassurance the company strives to give customers, lockdown or not."

Give funds to two studies
SDF and SAME are donating to research at IRCCS - Ospedale San Raffaele di Milano.

SDF and Fondazione SAME have announced they have donated 800,000 euros to two research projects run by IRCCS - Ospedale San Raffaele di Milano.


SDF and Fondazione SAME have announced they have donated 800,000 euros to two research projects run by IRCCS - Ospedale San Raffaele di Milano.


SDF and SAME are donating to research at IRCCS - Ospedale San Raffaele di Milano


The first project guided by Professor Giancarlo Comi, director of the Institute of Experimental Neurology, will study the use of hydroxychloroquine for preventive purposes. Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug that is also used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.


The PRECOV study, which will cover 800 doctors and nurses actively working to fight the pandemic at Ospedale San Raffaele, aims to determine whether taking hydroxychloroquine preventively can reduce the risk of infection and affect the progression of the disease.

“SDF and Fondazione SAME have built a consolidated relationship with Professor Comi and are pleased to have continuously contributed to his work towards the treatment of multiple sclerosis,” states Francesco Carozza, chairman of Fondazione SAME. “It is therefore a source of great satisfaction to be able to support the PRECOV study he is directing.”


The second project's objective is to create a high-level biosafety laboratory (level P3) capable of studying animal models with cutting-edge technology such as intravital microscopy, which allows researchers to view the dynamic interactions between the virus and host cells in real time, and single cell sequencing, which shows how individual cells from the host change when they encounter the virus and after the encounter.


This technology is usually used to study other, equally dangerous, viruses like the virus that causes hepatitis B and the viruses behind some haemorrhagic fevers.


“When the scientific director at San Raffaele, professor Gianvito Martino, informed us of the project we immediately met with professor Luca Guidotti, to learn more about it and quickly realised that this was a research project we wanted to support,” says Lodovico Bussolati, SDF's Chief Executive Officer.

The financing will allow the biosafety laboratory to be reconfigured and will support the purchase of the necessary technology and an increase in dedicated staff.


“Studying infectious diseases in animal models is very complex and dangerous. The risk of infection is higher for researchers, which is why a great deal of resources and experience are needed,” explains professor Guidotti. “Our objective is to participate in the international fight against the coronavirus by providing the only laboratory and technology of this kind in the world.”


These tools will allow scientists to observe the battle between the cells of the immune system and the virus, which reproduces itself in the host's tissues, in real time and at very high resolution. Observing this extraordinarily complex scenario, which varies from one infectious disease to another, often uncovers secrets that are useful for developing new treatments and vaccines.


In supporting these two projects SDF and Fondazione SAME achieve two objectives: Firstly to bring the current crisis to an end as soon as possible, and secondly to be better prepared for future health emergencies.

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New rules combine freedom to trade with personal safety
by Adam Bernstein, Service Dealer's SME Digest Editor
SME Digest Special Feature

In the 10th of our special series, designed for you to download, print and keep, Service Dealer's SME Digest editor, Adam Bernstein considers the steps suggested by the British Retail Consortium to allow some form of normal service to resume.