Mother Nature didn’t cooperate much, if at all. There was very little snowfall in 2007 and what did come arrived too late. Spring brought either too much rain to some parts of the United States or none at all. Neither condition was conducive to the growth of lawns and other green spaces. The drought begun in the spring continued and deepened throughout the summer months. And, lastly, the predictions of several major hurricanes did not materialize.
Compounding the weather conditions was the steady decline of the housing market and the growing concerns of a possible recession in the U.S. economy. As a result, the outdoor power equipment products segment did not meet forecast expectations, and furthermore, the predicted turnaround for most outdoor equipment products has been forecast to hold off for another year. The forecast, produced quarterly by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), is based on shipments of OPEI member companies and a statistical model prepared by the University of Michigan that links the industry data with the national economy.
In the handheld product category (consisting of handheld and backpack leaf blowers, trimmers, and chainsaws), the only product forecast to have an increase in shipments is chainsaws. At the end of model year (MY) 2006 (January–December 2006), chainsaws were forecast to decrease by 4.0% in MY 2008. As of the end of MY 2007, chainsaw shipments are forecast to increase by 1.2% between January and December 2008. This same forecast estimates that the increase in chainsaw shipments will continue in MY 2009 with an increase in shipments of 3.0%.
Despite forecasts at the end of 2006 estimating an increase in shipments for both handheld and backpack leaf blowers, the current 2007 forecast estimates that both products will now experience decreases in shipments between January and December 2008 of 3.0 and 2.1%, respectively. Current forecasts estimate that shipments will increase in MY 2009. Shipments of handheld leaf blowers are estimated to increase by 2.7% while backpack blower shipments are estimated to increase by a substantial 5.1%.
Trimmers are the only product for which 2006 and 2007 forecast estimates remain constant. The 2007 forecast estimates shipments of trimmers will decrease by 2.8%, just about matching last year’s estimate of a 1.8% decline in trimmer shipments. Good news for trimmers is on the horizon in MY 2009, however, when an increase in shipments of 1.8% is estimated.
Consumer and Commercial Turf Products
With the exception of zero-turn riding mowers, MY 2008 (September 2007–August 2008) will be a challenging year for consumer products. The expected rebound forecast in shipments estimated for MY 2008 will now occur in MY 2009. Shipments of consumer walk-behind powered mowers, consumer front-engine lawn tractors, and consumer riding garden tractors are all forecast to decrease in MY 2008 (by 1.8, 6.0, and 23.2%, respectively). Zero-turn riding mowers are forecast to have a 2.4% increase in shipments during MY 2008.
MY 2009, which begins in September 2008, is forecast to be a rebound year for most of these products. It is estimated that walk-behind powered-mower shipments will increase by 4.3% while front-engine lawn tractors will increase by 3.5%. Shipments of zero-turn riding mowers will continue to experience an increase in shipments (8.0%). Unfortunately, it is predicted that riding garden tractors will continue the trend of decreased shipments with an estimated 21.9% decline in shipments.
Shipments of commercial intermediate walkers, which were forecast at the end of last year to increase by 4.8%, are now forecast to increase by just 1.8%. Forecasts for MY 2009 estimate a continued increase for this product with an estimated 3.4% increase in shipments. Last year’s forecasted rebound in riding mowers will hold off until MY 2009. The commercial riding market will continue to be soft with an estimated 1.9% decrease in shipments. The anticipated increase in shipments will begin in September 2008 with an estimated 7.8% increase during that model year.
OPEI is the international trade association representing the manufacturers and their suppliers of consumer and commercial outdoor power equipment such as lawn mowers, garden tractors, chainsaws, generators, utility vehicles, snow throwers, tillers, trimmers, leaf blowers, outdoor power equipment engines, and other related products. OPEI cosponsors the annual international GIE+Expo, The Green Industry and Equipment Expo.