Outdoor power equipment category sees resurgence

The backyard shed is getting a makeover. The marquee categories of spring season outdoor power equipment (leaf blowers, pressure washers, mowers and trimmers) are seeing changes on two major fronts: type of features and channels of distribution.

The mass channel is seeing resurgence in outdoor power equipment (OPE) activity. Particularly in pressure washers, up year-over-year from 5.7 percent share to 11.0 percent share; and riding mowers, up from 4.0 percent to 8.0 percent. Across the major categories, mass merchants gained 2.8 percentage points.

The NPD Group attributes that gain to the mass channel’s ramped up merchandising efforts around the categories, as well as their related merchandising efforts around outdoor living in general, including outdoor fire pits and outdoor furniture.

“The other factor is the 18- to 34-year-old consumer seems to prefer the mass merchants,” said Mark Delaney, NPD Group’s director of home improvement. “And they represent the demographic that is increasingly moving into home ownership.”

Given the steady stream of green promotions at retail, gas-powered products are seeing a plateau or decline in popularity, based on the consumer research -- though the combustion engine continues to dominate the walk-behind mower category. Among riding mowers, the zero-turning-radius mower is the new kid on the block, accounting for almost a quarter of units sold in 2007. Zero-turn share has grown from 18.5 percent in 2006 to 24.0 percent in 2007.

“Home owners are increasingly looking for professional grade equipment,” said Delaney. “Zero-turning radius mowers have traditionally been used by pros and have now caught on with consumers in a big way.” It doesn’t hurt that “zero-turn” prices have come down significantly, he said.

The data also suggests that the wealthy OPE customer isn’t the powerhouse demographic, compared to other sectors. The $100K and above segment is handily outspent by the $45K to $74.9K segment.

“That stands to reason,” said Delaney. “The higher income bracket usually has pros take care of their landscaping for them.”