Excel layoffs tied to changes in the lawn mower market

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HESSTON, Kan. (KWCH) Approximately 270 people are without jobs in Hesston after Excel Industries laid off workers. The company says after years of unprecedented growth, demand for its products has leveled off and it needs to reorganize to match inventory with sales.

On Friday, we learned details about the market and why people aren't buying as many mowers as before.

Freedonia Group conducted a national study earlier this year and analyzed Excel and the power lawn and garden equipment industry.

Their data seems to match up with what Excel is saying.

"They're one of the companies we looked at as a key provider of rear-engine zero turn radius mowers," said Jenny Christ, a manager of consumer and commercial good with Freedonia.

The study shows demand is slowing down, and the cause is tied to the great recession.

"Coming out of 2011 the industry was recovering from the recessionary years. the growth between 2011 and 2016 was much faster than it's going to be going forward. 4:18

Dan's Cycle in Hesston sells Hustler and Big Dog lawn mowers - both are manufactured at Excel Industries. Owner Dan Erb says a few years ago, a smaller model came out for the average consumer at a smaller price tag - about $2,600.

"When it got down into the mid-$2,000 range, it was like nothing we'd ever seen before," he said.

And sales quadrupled.

"For a number of years, we would order mowers and we simply couldn't get them," said Erb. "It took them a number of years just to build up the supply for the demand."

Erb says his sales are still very strong, but some other shops around town have said the growth in sales, isn't what it used to be.

Experts say the market for zero-turn mowers was growing at seven percent every year but that will shrink down to about 3.7 percent every year, until 2021.

The study also found in the next few years the biggest demand for Excel's mowers will come from landscape companies. As baby boomers age, they will increasingly hire landscapers, who in turn, will purchase the mowers.