By Brian Rowan
From the April 2023 Issue
Landscape contractors and the Green Industry have been through a lot in the past few years. We’re continuing to deal with the aftermath of a global pandemic that brought Industry growth, but also inflation, supply chain issues, price increases, and intensified labor shortages. While we have seen some improvement, the war in Ukraine and impending economic slowdown have led to continued concern. Read on for three tips to address these pain points so you can focus on business growth.
How We Got Here
The pandemic led to tremendous business growth in our Industry. A study conducted by LMN states that 96% of landscaping businesses reported a yearly revenue increase in 2022. While most industries were struggling and many businesses had to close their doors, landscape contractors flourished. Stay-at-home orders across the nation prompted homeowners to invest more money than ever in their outdoor spaces. We saw a significant boost in demand that, paired with trade challenges, led to supply chain issues. The Industry faced an uphill battle and we’re finally getting caught up.
However, product cost has gone up considerably due to commodity price increases. Costs outside of our Industry — like gas and insurance — also directly impact the bottom line. The war in Ukraine has impacted our Industry’s raw material cost and availability, and labor shortages continue. Fortunately, there are ways to combat some of these adversities.
Maintaining Business Growth
1. Refresh Your Turf Care Approach
To make up for Industry challenges, we’ve seen some contractors opt to trade down to less effective products or put down a lower application than they normally would. While this might seem like a cost-saving strategy, it carries the risk of not being able to deliver the quality turf results that customers expect; resulting in even more time and product spent at each property.
I encourage business owners to reevaluate turf care by bringing it back to the basics. With a simple three-step solution, turf quality can be brought back to life and time spent at each property can be reduced, freeing up valuable labor and keeping customers happy.
For healthy turf, the right soil conditions must be achieved. This requires three things: a thriving environment, the right nutrition, and stress prevention. This straightforward approach has been overlooked in the past; we once thought if we kept pumping enough nutrients into the turf, that’s all it needed.
In reality, the best approach is to focus on soil health, which sets the foundation. From there, focus on applying the right amount of nutrients. A high-quality, extended-release fertilizer delivers a nice, even feeding over time. This ensures whatever nutrients that aren’t used immediately don’t go to waste.
Then comes stress prevention. It’s important to choose the right control products as a preventative measure, whether it’s pre-emergent herbicide, preventative grub control, and/or fungicide. Ultimately, if you treat the soil right and use high quality fertilizers, the cost of pesticides, etc. will be reduced.
2. Talk To Your Crews
As product becomes a more substantial part of your costs, it’s the perfect time to remind crews about efficient product use. Consider somebody pushing a spreader: s/he is moving at a different speed first thing in the morning vs. day’s end. Walking speed could account for a 20 or 30% difference in product applied. Have a conversation about being mindful of spreader calibration and application consistency. Make sure you’re putting down the best product, in the right amount, and at the right application rate. (See “Get Equipped: Spreaders, Sprayers & Seed”)
3. Stay Close To Your Distributor
Another way to deal with any supply chain issues is to stay close to your distributors. Your distributor is going to be one step ahead in understanding what’s going on with costs, supply, and substitute product suggestions. It’s in a distributor’s best interest to make sure you’re prepared; communicate with them regularly to understand how the Industry is faring and how to prepare for any future shortages.
Supply Chain Update
We’re all wondering if pricing and supply chain issues are going to continue, and the short answer is that we don’t know. We’re not going to see the same fluctuations as the last two years, but it’s difficult to say where it’s going to land.
For example, the price of urea more than doubled in the last three years. We’re not going to see it come back to 2019’s lows, but it’s probably going to settle quite a bit lower than where it was at the beginning of the year.
As an Industry, we hope to see a bit of normalized costs. This gives contractors a chance to invest in advanced products, increase productivity to pre-pandemic level, and to get the turf plant healthy again.
As we prepare for a potential economic slowdown, distributors and suppliers are being very cautious about the inventory they stock. At SiteOne, we are continuing to stock inventory far enough out to ensure we will have key products throughout the year. Additionally, leading distributors have taken measures to help alleviate future supply issues — whether it’s alternative suppliers or product sources. Between that and demand flattening, things seem to be stabilizing to a normal growth rate as an Industry.
There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. But with the tips here, you can better navigate the unknowns and maintain efficiency.
Rowan is the vice president of Category Management at SiteOne® Landscape Supply. SiteOne has a wide selection of landscape maintenance, irrigation, lighting, hardscapes, nursery and pest management supplies. Plus, with the convenience of over 620 locations, SiteOne is within reach of virtually any job. Find your neighborhood branch at www.SiteOne.com.
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