From carrying bicycles and sharpening tools and knives to selling lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment (OPE), Arn’s Equipment, a dealership in Calgary, Alberta, has gone through many changes over the years. Scott Jardine is the president and third-generation owner of the company, which now serves as both a retailer and wholesaler. Adjusting to the evolving equipment industry, Arn’s customer base includes mainly landscaping companies and larger residential customers as well as other dealers in western Canada.
“The wholesale side of the business gives us two great advantages, not only for the dealership, but also for our customers,” explains Jardine. “First, it allows us to stock a lot more inventory, providing our retail customers a diverse selection. If you need a part, we have it. Second, based on our client base, the retail side of the business fluctuates with the weather. By serving as a wholesaler to other dealerships, it allows me to diversify my business, making the dealership less dependent upon weather in the Calgary area.”
Jardine says when customers walk through the door, they are looking for a solution to a problem, and Arn’s staff work to solve their problem as quickly as possible.
“Time is money, so our customers want to know what equipment will allow them to do the job quicker and more efficiently,” says Jardine. “We try to work with the landscapers to really understand their business and how our equipment can help them from a labor and cash flow point of view.”
Solving customers’ problems has been at the core of Arn’s 70-year history, but Jardine points out that some of the other keys to success in the industry have changed and are constantly evolving.
“For the dedicated power equipment dealer, the challenge is to become more professional dealerships, marketers and retail establishments,” says Jardine. “We are getting high-end customers who went to a nice dealership to buy their car. I think the challenge for dealerships is to upgrade facilities, image, showrooms and overall business to look like a modern retailer.”
In addition to running a professional looking dealership, Jardine says those in the equipment industry also need to understand the foundation of good business in order to succeed.
“In any business you need to understand margins and operating costs and be on top of those at all times,” he says. “You also need a good systems or processes in place for how you do just about everything. Additionally, in this industry, it is critical to be selective of your suppliers looking at which manufacturers will give you margins and support but also which ones will be around long term.”
Jardine has also recently joined EDA’s OPE Council, which represents the nearly 2,000 EDA members who carry OPE brands. Involvement with EDA is one way dealerships can stay on top of an ever-changing industry.
“In my time growing up in this business, there has been a tremendous amount of change,” he says. “My eldest son just graduated with a business degree and is coming to work for us, and I think he’ll continue to see changes during his time in the industry as it continues to evolve.”