An Overview of Professional Landscape Market | Haigood & Campbell LLC
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An Overview of Professional Landscape Market

Originally published by the Propane Council

Marketers who pursue new propane customers in professional landscaping have found it to be a tremendous source of summer gallons. Consider this: One commercial mower uses about 1,000 gallons of propane per year. That’s twice as much as a typical household. Adding just one midsize landscape contractor with a fleet of six propane‑powered mowers would be like adding 12 new residential customers. In fact, the professional landscape industry consumes about 520 million gallons of conventional fuel in its mowers each year.

Landscape contractors need fuel to run their operations. No matter what the per-gallon cost is, they can’t change the amount of fuel they need to power their fleet. What they can change, however, is the kind of fuel they use. The Haigood-Campbell in Dallas, as a marketer, you can provide contractors with a fuel that offers many advantages over gasoline and diesel:

  • Propane saves money on fuel and other operating costs.
  • Propane reduces downtime, which means money.
  • Propane virtually eliminates fuel spills and theft, which means it saves money.
  • Propane helps protect the environment.

This is why landscape contractors across the country are turning to propane to help them save money and increase productivity. According to a 2012 research study by Landscape Management magazine, landscape contractors intend to increase their use of propane by 300 percent while reducing their use of diesel by the same percentage. And that’s just over the next few years.

In other words, propane-powered mowers aren’t just a passing fad. It is the future of landscape services. And it could be part of your future, too, as you help contractors boost profitability while growing your own gallons during the summer months.

In terms of delivering your propane to this new collection of customers, establishing service couldn’t be easier. If you currently deliver propane for homes or forklifts, you already know how to deliver propane to landscape contractors. You can set up an on-site dispensing station with a large tank or provide a cylinder exchange service.

So as you start to GO AFTER landscape contractors just remember A FEW THINGS:

  • See mowers, think houses.
  • One midsize fleet of commercial mowers uses the same amount of propane as 12 average U.S. households.
  • Landscape contractors expect the use of propane-powered mowers to increase
    by 300 percent in the next three years.

midsize fleet
Now that you know the opportunity, the question becomes “How easy is it to convince a landscape contractor to switch his fleet to propane?”

Let’s examine how these advantages are relevant to the professional landscape industry.

A Cheaper Fuel

As a propane marketer, you are in an ideal position to make inroads into a new market like landscape services because your product has a proven track record of helping contractors cut their operating costs, especially as it relates to fuel.

In many cases, fuel costs are a primary factor in determining whether a contractor’s business is going to be profitable or not. This has been a challenge in recent years, as the price of gasoline and diesel has been trending up. In fact, according to an October 2010 survey conducted by Landscape Management, contractors cited “rising fuel costs” as a top success blocker.

Fortunately for you, this lack of price stability has prompted a renewed interest among landscape contractors in alternative fuels. As you know, propane is generally significantly less expensive than gasoline or diesel.

Additionally, propane marketers can attract professional landscape customers by offering a monthly, or even yearly, contract, which helps minimize price volatility commonly experienced with gasoline. A contract also helps contractors project their annual fuel costs, alleviating anxiety about unforeseen spikes in prices at the pump.

A Productive Fuel

Equipment is the lifeblood of a landscaping business. If a mower is out of rotation, its absence from the jobsite could have serious consequences on a contractor’s profit margin.

With propane-powered mowers, downtime is minimized. Propane’s high octane rating and low carbon and oil contamination may result in reduced maintenance costs and longer engine life. Additionally, better refueling practices can help maximize time on the jobsite. In many instances, the refueling of gasoline-fueled equipment requires crew members to travel to an off-site fueling station. This can equate to hundreds of hours of unproductive time, because it forces employees to make an extra stop.

Based on a variety of factors, landscape contractors can expect up to 8 hours of performance on a single fueling. Plus, they will usually keep additional cylinders in their trucks for easy refueling on the jobsite, increasing productivity by reducing downtime.

With propane, a contractor has the flexibility to choose a system that best suits their operation, and regardless of the refueling option, their crew will spend more time mowing and less time refueling. Propane marketers can help customers choose the best option.

Propane provides on-site refueling options that are similar to how you already work with forklift and homeowner customers :

a cylinder exhange program

A cylinder exchange program where a propane marketer can deliver replacement propane tanks directly to a contractor’s storage tank.

an on-site dispensing station

An on-site dispensing station with a refueling infrastructure that includes a large tank and no-spill dispenser to allow the landscape contractor to refill empty cylinders.

A Contained Fuel

With a traditional gasoline- or diesel-fueled mower, spilled and wasted fuel is a common occurrence. In fact, refueling landscape equipment results in 17 million gallons of spilled gasoline in the United States each year — more than one and a half times the volume of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez into Prince William Sound in 1989. Because propane is a contained fuel source, spills are not an issue.

Additionally, any landscaping crew knows that at the end of the day, gas cans rarely return full (no matter how many lawns were mowed). With propane, there is little opportunity to steal fuel, which can translate to real savings for landscape contractors.

little opportunity to steal fuel

A Greener Fuel

Going green was once seen as a fringe movement, but it is now gaining momentum. Consumers and businesses are looking for environmentally friendly options. These preferences are quickly making their way into landscape services, and propane offers an excellent alternative.

greener fuel
Studies show that propane-powered commercial mowers produce almost 50 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent fewer carbon monoxide emissions than a comparable commercial mower running on gasoline. They also significantly reduce other polluting emissions such as ozone and particulate matter. And new commercial propane-powered mowers meet or exceed all current emissions requirements established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the more stringent California Air Resources Board standards.

These emissions benefits help landscape contractors appeal not only to green-minded consumers but also businesses that are likelier than ever to have sustainability goals. Many companies now require vendors to use a low-emissions fuel, like propane, when available.

In addition to voluntary adoption of green alternatives, some larger cities are taking the issue further. Municipalities with air quality issues will periodically enact environmental air quality restriction days. During these times a temporary moratorium is placed on the use of gasoline-fueled commercial mowers. Compounding this challenge is the fact that these are not regularly scheduled events.

Because of its emission advantages, a propane-powered mower is frequently exempt from the moratorium, allowing a landscape contractor to keep mowing during times of environmental restriction.

The bottom line is your product can equip a landscape contractor with a powerful tool that can help them land new business. In many instances jobs are being awarded to contractors based strictly on the fact that they are able to provide a green solution. Propane can provide that solution, and do so cost-effectively.

Landscape Contractors

The U.S. professional landscape industry is composed of roughly 90,000 companies with combined annual revenue of about $50 billion. Experts refer to the industry as “highly fragmented,” meaning, the top 50 companies generate just 15 percent of all revenue. The majority of landscape contractors (65 percent) are small businesses with annual sales of less than $500,000. Most have fewer than 10 employees.

Success is largely determined by job volume and operations efficiency. Landscape contractors need ideas on how they can cut operating costs, improve their overall efficiencies, and differentiate themselves from the competition. A propane marketer that shows them a better, more effective way to do business can quickly earn new customers.

Typical landscape contractor services include the following:

  • Commercial and residential landscape maintenance.
  • Landscape construction.
  • Irrigation system installation and service.
  • Tree services.
  • Chemical lawn care and pest control.
  • Branch removal around utility lines.
  • Snow removal.

In addition to landscape contractors, there are other potential targets that might buy propane -POWERed commercial mowers:

  • Commercial and residential property grounds managers.
  • Parks and recreation grounds managers.
  • Universities and schools grounds managers.
  • Municipality grounds managers.

By the Numbers:

fuel consumed520 MILLION

Gallons of conventional fuel consumed.

annual revenue$80,000

Annual revenue per employee.

number of contractors58%

Number of contractors that have been in business more than 5 years.

number of contractors healthy86%

Number of contractors who say their industry is “healthy” or “relatively healthy” in spite of the current recession.

Tools of the Trade Mowers

walk-behind mowerWalk-Behind Mower

Commercial walk-behind mowers are built with higher-end components, bigger decks, and more powerful engines than the typical residential walk-behind. They offer landscape contractors an economical choice that can cover a lot of ground without investing in a riding mower.

stand-out mowerStand-On Mower

With a similar body style to a commercial walk-behind, a stand-on has a platform on the back of the mower, allowing the operator to stand rather than walk. This provides the operator with an elevated view for an improved line of sight. Stand-on mowers are the optimal choice for mowing properties with tight spaces where a riding mower would not fit.

ZTR riding mowerZero-Turn-Radius (ZTR) Riding Mower

A zero-turn-radius riding mower can pivot 180 degrees without leaving a circle of uncut grass. Zero-turn riding mowers are the most popular choice for landscape contractors and offer the best opportunity to maximize propane gallon sales.

Tools of the Trade: Generators and Trucks

remote power generationRemote Power Generation

A propane-powered generator provides contractors with a convenient source of portable energy. Generators can be used on the trailer to recharge electric handheld equipment like trimmers, blowers, and chain saws, further reducing the operation’s emissions and fuel costs.

trucks propane autogasTrucks that run on Propane Autogas

Landscape contractors can also capitalize on the cost saving benefits of propane in their truck fleet.

Work vehicles that operate on propane autogas can offer contractors a transportation option with lower operating costs and lower emissions than trucks that run on gasoline or diesel. These vehicles deliver the same horsepower, torque, and towing capacity as the gasoline versions of the same models but emit up to 25 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

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