In this edition of Dealer Round Up, Snow Plow News ask dealers to share their thoughts on the 2022 season and how to prepare for the future.
May 24, 2023 | Emma Tyborski
This winter our pre-season really wasn’t affected, we had a decent pre-season, lack of snow for the past two three years has affected us, but the pre-season was actually pretty average. During the season, we saw things start to trail off, the ice equipment, spreaders stuff like that, kind of continued on, but the pushing equipment, the snow plows and pushers and box plows, they really trailed off and kind of came to a halt.
Our area averages about 20 some odd inches a year, this year we got two plow-able events at the shop within a mile to a mile and a half, they didn’t even get that. Our customers who have seasonal contracts most of them who know that we can have temperamental seasons, try to write a mix of seasonal contracts and per push contracts, so they have a season like this doesn’t bury them, that way too if we get a major snow season, they’re not stuck for all the fuel costs and labor costs too. So I think the smart guys really write it both ways, but I do have customers coming in who are definitely upset about the the lack of snow for the season.
Next season, I think we need a good early snowstorm to sell pre-season. I think if we see some white stuff early, it might start people moving, I think my biggest fear is there’s a lot of new unused equipment or new lightly used equipment out in the field, there are people getting out of the industry, because it’s been tough seasons, I think there’s going to be a flood of used equipment in the market that’ll limit pre-season sales and in season sales of new equipment.
Where our shop is located in Maryland, we average 18 to 22 inches per season. This year I had to get out of set of micrometers to measure how much snow we got, we got 0.2 of an inch so that’s less than an eighth inch of snow, so it’s been interesting this season. Basically our numbers are down for our service and sales of parts because usually in January and February you guys have broke up so much stuff, because in Maryland we don’t get snow a lot, so everybody forgets how to plow their first one or two storms. Luckily we were able to pick up some of our other businesses that we do has been taken off to cover those slow periods, but it’s been definitely interesting with all of our customers.
The biggest thing I see with a slow winter like this is it gets a lot of people scared “well it didn’t snow last year I don’t think I need to buy a plow now it’s not going to snow next year” and it gets people a false sense of security. The problem is within our area, Maryland has two things, either it doesn’t snow at all or to please God make it stop! As you know we traditionally get every five to ten years we get a massive 20 or 30 inch storm, shuts the entire State down and it’s just an utter disaster. I thought this was going to be our year to do that, so I’m probably figuring next year and the general consensus of most of my customers saying we just came out of El Nina and we’re going to be going into El Nino, next year we’re going to get hammered.
One of the biggest problems with the snow industry, particularly in our area and particularly most of the East Coast, is too many guys rely on entirely too heavy as part of their portfolio. Snow money is blood money, it costs you a lot of blood, sweat and tears to buy the equipment, do the job and everything else. You do make good money when it snows, but because snow money needs to sometimes be considered as a bonus, this isn’t like in the Midwest or up north or in Canada where snow is just a way of life, we don’t get it here on the East Coast enough to have your entire business revolve around it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of customers that are strictly snow industry customers, so they do have their businesses set up with minimum guarantee contracts or seasonal contracts, but a lot of guys that I’m hearing this year “oh it didn’t snow I’m going to get my truck repoed or I don’t know how I’m going to make the payment on my plow”, those are the guys that are that are gung-ho into it, they think they’re gonna make a bunch of money and then you don’t get snow they don’t know how to pay their bills. If you’re buying equipment you got to know can I make these payments on this equipment if it doesn’t snow, because you know if you ever want to find everybody who cares about you missed two payments, because somebody will care about you then.
We didn’t really have a winter, I think we had three events that you might consider snow removal, most of it was gone the next day, so definitely parks and service are a little lacking. People were not really using their plows, or their sanders, so they weren’t really breaking them, so they’re not really buying parts. Plow sales were still pretty strong, the lack of trucks, the lack of chassis made that a little bit more difficult, but you know we’ll get through.
We found whenever we have a down time, any kind of slow time regardless of what it is, we turn around and focus more on the customer and trying to clean up some of our processes. So we’ve spent a lot of time just being more efficient. We’ve spent time cleaning things that we didn’t normally clean, but it’s definitely a time to step back and kind of look at yourself as company, find out if there’s anything you do to improve. We got rid of some old stagnant inventory, things like that, so it’s just been it’s been nice, it’ll help us in the long run.
We went from a normal 100 to 120 inch winter, to about 60 inches right now. There’s still room here this month, we had 8 inches before we came down to the show on Monday night and they’re predicting another storm, but it certainly hasn’t been back to back. There’s a lot of places in the country that they’re really snow starved, not just for the business, but for the weather to help the grounds. A lot of the contractors Nationwide in a snow market plan on the snow to help them make their money for the year or make money for the for the rest of their year, so when we have a winter that’s very mild like this, it’s difficult. There’s some that are in markets where they only get paid when they perform there aren’t performance bonds or payments and they don’t have a yearly contract, or a per per time per application. So a winter like this for them is very very difficult. In a market where you can have a yearly contract, this is a great winter for them, because they don’t have to go out as much, but if you have a couple of soft winters, then the customers start to ask questions about what they’re actually being charged. They don’t realize how much it takes for the customer, for the plow person to have their equipment ready to go. A new truck today at 60, 70, 80 thousand dollars, a new plow 8, 10, 12, 15,000 dollars, a new spreader somewhere between five and eight thousand dollars, it’s a lot of money just to go out and plow snow, so you have to have a good return on the investment.
Anybody who plows snow and has equipment, they should have the equipment serviced or try to have it serviced before the season and when we have a season like this, in between storms, they need to make sure that anything that’s going on with their truck, with their plow, with their spreader, anything in their supply chain that they’re paying attention to that so that when there is a storm they can react immediately, because now they have a very narrow window to be able to try to make money in that that situation. In a normal winter where you have snow every day they’re they’re staying active, they’re sleeping on the same schedule as the snow is coming, they’re working on a regular basis or daily basis, when we don’t have snow, that changes, they sleep more like a normal person and they’re not necessarily geared up and ramped up for the snow, so when we get an event they have to change what they’re doing and in a winter like this they might do that four, five, six times throughout the winter, so they have to keep that mentality of “if it comes, I have to be ready”.