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August 13, 2007 – An urban market for rural accessories

August 14, 2007
Filed under Features

By Steve Bauer
Managing Editor
With the increasing popularity of food plot implements and other lawn and garden accessories, the demand from consumers — especially those in urban areas — for dealers to carry those products on-site has grown significantly in the past few years.
But finding dealers willing to purchase inventory that is both expensive and space consuming is a headache for many accessory manufacturers, especially with a growing number of consumers in urban markets purchasing these products for use on rural land they might own or lease.

An emerging consumer
Al Werthauser, public relations specialist for Swisher, says although the rural customer still makes up a large percentage of the company’s sales, more and more customers in urban areas are looking to purchase hunting and lawn accessories without having to travel far from home.
“It all depends on what that lawn and garden item is,” he said. “If it’s a trail cutter, for example, there are plenty of people in urban areas who have cabins who use that equipment to cut trails. So maybe they’re storing them at their cabins, but we’re finding that they’re looking to be buy them in more urban areas.
“One rapidly growing segment for us has been food plot attachments for hunters. We’ve always had rear-behind implements to do food plots and things like that, but we just recently introduced a new attachment system as well. We are pushing and going forward in that market pretty heavy, and you’d be surprised at how much of the customer base originates from urban areas.”

Reluctant dealers
The biggest problem with giving consumers the options to buy these products on-site at a dealership is the hesitation of many dealers to invest money and space into a product they don’t see a market for.
“It’s a constant battle,” said Sean Ruppert, advertising and show manager for Agri-Fab. “Dealers would prefer to have customers order the products through a catalog, but what we’re trying to make them understand is that if they don’t have it on-site, somebody else down the road will, and there goes that sale.”
Werthauser agrees that dealers have to be convinced that it’s worth the up-front investment, and then they must showcase it properly if they want to see the inventory move.
“The successful ones carry the inventory, they put it outside, they put it by the front door, they attach it to an ATV, basically they have it on hand available,” he said. “If they don’t have it on hand when the customer’s looking for it, the customer will find it somewhere else. But the fact is that if the competition has the product, they’re selling it. So if the dealer doesn’t want to step up and buy it then they’re going to have a hard time selling it, because it’s much harder to sell it out of a catalog than if it’s right in front of the consumer to look at.”

Proper marketing
Both Werthauser and Ruppert say their companies focus on marketing the products instead of relying on the dealers to do it.
“We focus a lot of time and energy into doing our own marketing so that we don’t have to rely on the dealers to do it for us,” Werthauser said. “We pretty much drive traffic to them, which makes it easier for them to focus on showcasing the product instead of having to advertise it.”
Ruppert agrees that taking the pressure off dealers to advertise the product is a big key.
“We have a marketing plan in place that is focused on moving customers to our dealers who know what they’re looking for and know where to find it,” he said. “As long as the dealer is carrying the product, we’ve found that sales success is high.”
Swisher and Agri-Fab, along with companies like Cycle Country, are taking advantage of the surge in popularity of both food plot implements and similar hunting utility accessories, and are excited about the potential growth opportunities these segments will provide
“It’s our area of focus. We’ve been in it for 60 years now,” Werthauser said. “Although we continue to have steady growth on the lawn and garden side, we see the food plot/hunting utility segments continuing to grow and becoming a big part of our revenue both now and in the years to come.”

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