It’s summertime and the livin’ is fairly easy with some of the new lawn and garden products on the market that promise to make mowing and trimming a breeze.
Consumer spending is up slightly, and 2010 is looking better for the lawn and garden equipment industry than 2009. Projections from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing the $15 billion landscape, lawn and garden, forestry, and utility equipment manufacturing industry, show a drab 2009 will gradually bloom into a slightly brighter 2010.
For instance, U.S. walk-behind rotary mower shipments slid below 5 million units to 4.660 million in 2009, but OPEI projects that during 2010, shipments will start to recover, posting a 3.8% gain over 2009. These numbers are expected to climb 6.5% in 2011, to 5.152 million units—that’s a lot of people getting their exercise.
Residential zero-turn-radius riding mower shipments in the U.S. totaled 198,769 units for 2009, 12.3% below 2008. After two down years, however, recovery is expected in 2010 with a 6.0% increase in shipments. Residential riding lawn mowers, a new category for the OPEI, combines products that previously were labeled front engine lawn tractors and riding garden tractors. Shipments of this product fell 13.7% in 2009, but are expected to rebound slightly during 2010, rising 2.0% above 2009. Calendar year 2011 shipments will expand a modest 2.5% over 2010 levels, with total 2011 shipments for residential riders expected to be nearly 1.107 million units.
According to the latest figures from the National Gardening Assn., in 2009, 72% (83 million households) participated in lawn and garden activities, up from 81 million households in 2008. Lawn and garden retail sales totaled $36.060 billion in 2008, but dropped 16% to $31 billion in 2009. “Given the recession, the one thing that went up in 2009 was vegetable gardening, and that was up 20%,” commented Bruce Butterfield, NGA’s research director. “We’ve seen that trend before in hard times.”
That was also evidenced by the OPEI’s figures, which showed that shipments of walk-behind rotary tillers, typically used in vegetable gardens, were up 30.9% (296,407 units) over 2008. The OPEI expects 2010 shipments to be up 10% to 326,048 units and 2011 shipments to be up 8.1% over 2010 to 352,458 units.
Global demand for power lawn and garden equipment is projected to expand 2.8% annually through 2013 to $18.4 billion, according to The Freedonia Group’s report, Power Lawn & Garden Equipment (August 2009). While sales have been sluggish due to a downturn in consumer spending, the “bedrock U.S. market will provide the best opportunities, accounting for slightly over one-half of the additional demand generated between 2008 and 2013.” The report noted that an expected turnaround in the housing crisis and “consumers’ continued enthusiasm for lawn care” will account for an uptick in this market. U.S. power lawn and garden equipment sales will also benefit from the introduction of improved products, such as cordless electric models.
North America and Western Europe will continue their domination of these markets, comprising more than 85% of the demand, thanks in large part to the high per capita income of these nations that allow for these purchases. The fact that these regions are also home to the majority of the world’s golf courses—major consumers of lawn and garden equipment—doesn’t hurt either.
Although golf courses have a lot of equipment, the residential market accounted for 60% of power lawn and garden equipment sales in 2008. However, demand in the commercial market is anticipated to outpace the residential market in most regions through 2013 due to the rising number of professional landscapers who will see increased demand for their services in both residential and commercial properties, said Freedonia.
The report also said lawnmowers will continue to be the largest product segment of the market, benefitting from their wide use in both residential and commercial applications. Trimmers and edgers, like lawnmowers, will benefit as well, but intense price pressures from China-produced products will limit value gains. Other products such as rotary tillers, leaf blowers, snow throwers, parts, and accessories will grow from rising standards of living in developing nations.
The United States remains the dominant lawn and garden equipment producer, with shipments of $9 billion in 2008 and net exports of nearly $500 million. However, China was the largest net exporter, with a trade surplus of $800 million. Many Western European nations are significant exporters, although Italy is the only nation in the region with a trade surplus, said the Freedonia report.
The world power lawn and garden equipment industry is made up of a variety of companies, including those specializing in specific product segments to those multinationals that provide a wide range of products. The four largest producers, according to The Freedonia Group, are Husqvarna (Sweden), and U.S.-based Deere & Co., Toro, and MTD Products. Those four companies supplied more than 50% of the market in 2008.
Deere & Co. has been manufacturing lawn and garden equipment for several decades, and John Deere’s Horicon, WI manufacturing facility recently rolled out its 5 millionth lawn tractor built there—a model from the Select Series X700 Ultimate Tractor lineup.
John Deere’s Cary, NC manufacturing facility launched a new family of walk-behind mowers that provides added features for improved cut quality. The three new “best-in-class” walk-behind mowers for 2010, models JS26, JS36, and JS46, are designed with enhanced features to improve quality of cut and overall performance.
All three models boast more power and durability, including MowMentum Drive, a variable-drive system that allows operators to modify the mower speed to match their stride, delivering more control and comfort. The new walk-behinds also include a broad cut height range from 1.2-4.2 inches. The JS36 and JS46 include rear-wheel drive, which allows for added traction when bagging clippings.
Toro Co. introduced new products for its spring 2010 lineup, including the new e-Cycler electric mower and the Titan zero-turn mower to make keeping your lawn in shape easy and eco-friendly. The Toro e-Cycler is lightweight and built to the same performance standards as Toro’s most popular Recycler Series mowers, while the 2010 Titan line combines stout, commercial-inspired construction and user-friendly features.
One material supplier that serves lawn and garden is Ticona Engineering Polymers. Steve Bassetti, North American marketing manager for Ticona, says that on an industry level, many of the same drivers that impact the automotive industry also influence the direction lawn and garden products are taking. “There’s an awareness around sustainability and environmental impact that continues to grow,” Bassetti noted in an interview. “Anyone in this arena is looking at their portfolio of products, in addition to the products’ performance, and also looking at materials and processes to improve in all these areas.”
The company says its Celcon/Hostaform POM provides a good choice for this market by offering durability, light weight, and ultraviolet (UV) resistance. “We’ve seen a lot of interest—with growing success—in finding ways to eliminate paint with molded-in colors, specifically metallic-looking colors with our MetaLX metal-effect polymers,” says Bassetti. “We’ve been successful in applications where they’re trying to eliminate paint while maintaining the aesthetics of the products.”
Bassetti points out that 50 years ago, lawn and garden products were about functionality. Today, the advent of the Big Box retailers has created a need for aesthetics and styling as well, much like that seen in the automotive industry. “These players want to become more automotive-like in that they pay more attention to the aesthetics and styling, as well as achieving environmental goals by eliminating paint using the molded-in-color technology,” Bassetti adds. “There are also significant systems cost savings when using the molded-in color technology option.”
On another level, Bassetti notes that Ticona’s Celcon/Hostaform also goes into functional parts in lawn and garden equipment. “The new high-impact modified HS15 series performs well in abrasive environments, which means consumers replace parts less frequently,” he says. While this translates into savings in energy throughout the manufacturing channel, the main benefit is that the components such as gears, bearings, and other moving components “last longer and work better.”
Due to its extreme impermeability to gasoline and alcohol, Celcon/Hostaform POM is currently being evaluated for potential use as a permeation barrier in small engine fuel tanks, in order to meet the latest evaporative emissions regulations proposed by California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Outside of powered equipment, Celstran long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic is used for housings, footrests, and carriers, with the base resin being either polypropylene or nylon. In these exterior applications, UV protection can be provided by incorporation of carbon black. Ticona also has extensive experience and knowhow in the use of chemical UV stabilizers, where a black color is not desired.
“The reduction of weight, part consolidation, and consolidation of functionality are big advantages to the lawn and garden OEMs as they are in the automotive industry,” says Bassetti. “Celstran has a big role in contributing to the ease of the manufacturing process and energy savings by allowing processors to produce one part instead of five separate parts, as well as getting the weight out to make lawn and garden equipment more fuel efficient, and lighten up the devices, whether hedge trimmers or chain saws.” —Clare Goldsberry