Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Name Game

One of the most confusing and frustrating aspects of the outdoor power equipment field for consumers is the overwhelming amount of brand names in the marketplace. There is no end to the volume of sales propaganda from the mass merchants and manufacturers but how does the average person make a wise choice?

Obviously I have a biased opinion and think you should avoid the mass merchants altogether. That opinion is also based on the experience of seeing so many people go so far wrong with their purchasing decisions at the mass merchants. There are many reasons why but today I will concentrate on the name game.

Manufacturers love big volumes. It keeps their factories humming and the shareholders happy. The problem begins with how far a manufacturer is prepared to go in order to achieve those numbers. Unfortunately many have taken the route of using a well respected brand, cheapening up the product and putting it in the box stores. The big retail chains will squeeze every cent out of a manufacturer. The manufacturer still has to make a profit to stay in business. Only one route to take if you want to stay in the big box store. Cut every corner when you manufacture the product. You can't blame the box stores. They work on volume and it does them no good to have your product last for 20 years. They would like you to kindly replace it every year or two. Don't get me wrong. I love the box stores for a different reason. They pump out large volumes of equipment that rapidly need repair. This keeps our parts & service departments very busy.

It works wonders for awhile. The brand name has previously earned respect so people buy with confidence, only later are they disappointed with the results. It takes many years to finally drag down a brand name. By that time the CEO of the manufacturer has usually moved on with his bags of cash for all the wonderful sales numbers he has achieved over the previous few years. Long term though the brand is in a downward spiral as word gets out and people refuse to be duped again. Until finally they just put a whole new name on the same bad old product and the process begins anew.

Some big companies have bought up brand names of companies that were well respected but have gone out of business. The respected brand name is revived and applied to new, substandard products that floods the stores. This is very common.

The larger manufacturers also like to put out the same product in different colors & brand names. This lets the retailer claim an exclusive with the brand. An uninformed consumer may pay hundreds of dollars more for a product that is exactly the same as a less expensive brand at another retailer.

How is a person to know what they are buying? You have to talk with someone who is in the industry. In outdoor power equipment you need to talk to local dealers. You don't have to talk to just one. Find one you are comfortable with or get a variety of opinions from a number of different dealers. The dealer will be up to speed on the current antics of the manufacturers and stores. Now you will have solid facts to help you with a purchasing decision. If you are considering purchasing equipment then this is absolutely the critical first step. Do not trust internet based opinions as many of those have no depth of experience.

Personally I do not trust buying guides put out by different consumer groups. I have seen some real lemons promoted as best buys. Among outdoor power equipment dealers we all have a great laugh at some of the recommendations since we have seen first hand how poorly that product performs. I have also seen identical products manufactured under different names receive wildly different reviews. It is the exact same product! Maybe the reviewer liked the blue color better than the green color or it just simply clashed with his wardrobe.

The situation in the outdoor power equipment field is very much like the same game played in the home appliance industry and many others. Take some time, visit a few dealers. You will meet some nice people and gain valuable knowledge.