For the outdoor power equipment Model Year 2003 , which ended August 2003, consumer walk-behind mowers grew over the 2002 Model Year and shipments for all rider categories increased.
Some OPEI members reported that among the best-selling products in 2003 were zero-turn mowers, both consumer and commercial, lawn tractors, and commercial mowing equipment. Snow throwers, compact utility vehicles, backpack blowers, and line trimmers also did well.
On the heels of an outstanding finish in 2003, OPEI's forecast for Model Year 2004 looks bright, with some growth expected in most categories. Looking ahead one more year, OPEI expects growth to continue through 2005 in most cases.
Critical issues in the coming year will be regulations, both at home and overseas, the economy, and the weather. In 2004, OPEI members will face increasing challenges from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Accordingly, OPEI will continue its efforts on behalf of the industry toward responsible regulations. OPEI will expand international efforts on behalf of members whose business challenges will include trade issues, sound directives, and intellectual property rights. In 2004 the economy will remain in the forefront of everyone's minds. The grass will continue to grow, of course, and the weather will play an important role in its timing, duration, and general health, all of which will have an impact on the industry.
OPEI is looking forward to an excellent year by expanding successful programs and adding some new ones. In 2003, OPEI's trade show, the International Lawn, Garden, and Power Equipment Exposition (EXPO) was held in October 2003 instead of July 2003 for the first time since its inception 20 years ago. This date change proved to be an excellent move and went a long way toward putting a new face on EXPO. Manufacturers showed more new products, many exhibitors increased their space, new exhibitors came, and there was a significant increase in dealer attendees. Also, OPEI's Dealer University, held in conjunction with the show, nearly doubled in attendance over last year. During the coming year, we won't rest on our laurels, though. We have already begun plans for next year for more new features, enhanced education programs, and other positive changes which will be announced throughout the year.
OPEI's communications efforts will again be extensive and will cover important topics. We have just completed a leaf blower users training manual both in English and Spanish, and will add this and other leaf blower information to a special new leaf blower section of our web site. We will update our basic safety steps brochure to include more products, and it will also be printed in both English and Spanish. We are also exploring new ways to reach larger audiences with our crucially important safety messages - especially those that apply to children, and we will continue to promote the environmental benefits of outdoor power equipment through radio programs, PSAs, and print stories and releases.
Also this year, we will expand our shipments and forecasting program to include hand-held products.
With all of these and more, we have a busy and productive year ahead of us. And, as always, OPEI is available and ready to serve the needs of our members.