AKRON — Although industrywide supply shortages plagued the lawn and garden tire market earlier in the year, 2010 is looking to be a better year for sales in the segment as the economy picks up speed, dealers and marketers told Tire Business.
“Overall the (lawn and garden) market has been pretty good for us,” said Eric Johnson, product manager for Countrywide Tire & Rubber, which does about 10 percent of its annual sales in lawn and garden tires. “We've seen increases in those product lines by 13 percent year-to-date.
“There was some supply issues at the beginning of the year,” he added. “It seems like what happened was everybody placed all their orders all at once and overloaded the factories. Those things seem to be resolving themselves for us at this time of the year.”
Brian Preheim, product manager for Carlisle Tire & Wheel Co., echoed Mr. Johnson and said the “OEMs experienced demand exceeding their original forecasts, and that has tightened supply throughout the market.”
Despite these shortages, tire sales for residential and commercial lawn and garden equipment have still improved over 2009, a year when sales—especially on the OE side—suffered due to the economic recession.
Mr. Preheim said the market has “rebounded to some extent,” and the company is “hopeful that positive movement will be sustained.”
“We experienced growth in both OEM and replacement markets this spring compared with last year,” he said “…It is too early to tell whether 2010 will reach pre-recession levels and whether this movement will be sustained, but we're encouraged by the direction.”
Bob Slagle Sr., owner and president of S&S Specialty Tire, a Carlisle customer, agreed that there have been “serious backorders” in the industry in the lawn and garden tire sector, but said things are “just now starting to loosen up.”
He added that while shortages have been a problem this year, historically there have been lawn and garden tire shortages every spring, particularly on the OE end.
While OE sales suffered, aftermarket sales performed relatively well in 2009, according to Mr. Johnson, who said buying replacement parts for lawn mowers is cheaper than the alternative of buying new equipment.
“When you look at the spectrum of consumer pricing, with a house and car being at the top and a can of Coke being at the bottom, that lawn and garden tire falls pretty down low in there,” he said. “(Consumers) are cutting out bigger things before it gets to the point where they're not going to buy a tire for a lawn mower.”
Mr. Johnson said he believes the biggest problem facing the industry today stems from a lack of focus on lawn and garden tires, which has only increased because of the tariffs placed on tires imported from China.
“The new tariffs on the Chinese tires kind of opened it up for companies that have factories in countries like Taiwan and Thailand and Indonesia, where they can build those tires and bring them into the market without additional duties,” Mr. Johnson said.
“I think a lot of companies saw that as a big opportunity and shifted focus away from the smaller lawn and garden and specialty tires.
“I haven't seen anyone reduce capacity yet, but at the same time I think that the focus when they add capacity will be on those passenger and light truck tires,” he said.
“As the market grows for lawn and garden, the supply will get behind because the focus isn't there.”