IOG Scotsturf News: Turf kit makers predict stable sales in 2010

Turf care machinery makers are confident that they can maintain sales in 2010 despite gloomy predictions of a slow recovery and government cutbacks.

Politicians from all major parties have acknowledged that massive public debt means there will have to be cuts to Government spending in the near future.

With the majority promising to protect core services such as the NHS, cuts to parks and open space budgets seem inevitable.

Some local authorities have already warned staff that cutbacks will be unavoidable. Perth & Kinross grounds maintenance liaison officer Paul Summers explained: "The bosses have said that if anybody leaves now we are not allowed to replace them. And we are not going to be able to do much machinery-wise next year. There is an expectation that all machines will have to be made to last longer."

But manufacturers insisted that they are not too concerned because customers who deferred replacing machines this year may be forced to buy next year.

Speaking to HW at IoG Scotsturf, Hayter sales and marketing director David Sturges said: "Frankly, for next year we are reasonably optimistic. Our indications are that local authorities are looking to purchase machinery.

"There will be issues on Government funding so they may well do things differently and it is up to us as manufacturers to respond to that. That may mean they want to replace products differently in terms of financing but I don't think the market is going to disappear."

A large proportion of Hayter's business is with local authorities and Sturges said 2009 had been difficult. He said the collapse of the Icelandic banks, which affected around 100 councils, had forced some parks departments to reduce their spends, but most have now sorted out the problem.

John Deere territory sales manager Richard Charleton said it was too early to tell what might happen in next year's amenity markets.

He added: "I think it has been an interesting year and next year will be interesting too. There probably haven't been the sales that we would normally have. I think next year is anyone's guess though. At the moment we are going through the tendering processes so we will see what happens in the spring."

But while the local authority markets offered a mixed picture, both agreed it had been a tough year for golf in 2009.

There were tentative indications at IOG Scotsturf that sales may return in 2010 but few people were confident of a quick recovery.

Sturges said: "It has been a difficult year but I think there is some optimism about. Some people are up a bit but others are not; it is an unclear picture to be frank."

But Charleton was more confident, adding: "My guess is the golf market will pick up next year. There has been more postponement of purchase on the golf side than in other markets. Some clubs put the brakes on this year and I think next year, as long as there are no major shocks, it should return to normal."

The golf market is crucial to John Deere and the company has responded to the cutbacks with a range of new machines.

Charleton explained: "Our hybrid machines are specifically designed to save the customer time and money because we think that is what people are looking for."

Other companies are offering finance packages to help sales.


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