Time is money. So, spending some time calculating what products they will need for the year ahead can help save lawn care operators plenty of money through early order programs.
While each company’s early order program is unique, most offer savings for making bulk purchases during the fall and winter months.
“There are two purchase periods to choose from to take advantage of yearlong rate locks and top-notch rebates,” says Chris Moyer, Corteva’s agriscience turf and ornamental category lead. “The first period starts Oct. 1, 2021, and the second period starts Jan. 1, 2022.”
And though that may seem like a long time to get an EOP order in, Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager with Syngenta, says to get the most bang for your buck, ordering earlier is best.
“This year it’s very important for customers to consider buying during EOP, which in the lawn care space is Oct. 1 through Feb. 28. So, we do give a longer window for LCOs to purchase in this market space,” she says. “However, for them to get the best benefits and incentives, they should buy in the month of October or November, where they get the most rebates.”
By utilizing EOPs, Moyer says lawn care companies can have a jumpstart on a successful season.
“Early order programs are designed to create business opportunities for companies that have tight cash flow before and during the season as these programs can lock in their best cost positions on the products they rely on,” he says. “Because of this, companies can then leverage those savings to drive growth with their existing customers and capture new ones.”
Brett Rieck, regional sales manager with PBI-Gordon, says making use of EOPs can not only help lawn care companies run more efficiently, but also do more with less.
“Most LCO customers are not prepared for the early spring season, and it will help them be ready when others are not,” Rieck says. “Get a jump on your competition and second, take advantage because of your limited labor issues.”
As more LCOs realize the potential savings attributed to EOPs, suppliers say more are getting on board.
“People are starting to take notice of ‘If I order ahead of time, I can really get such an advantage on cost and price,’” says Evan Parenti, golf and lawn market manager with FMC. “There’s a little reluctance to order ahead sometimes, but once you get in the cycle of it... you get used to the cadence and the value really starts to show up year over year.”
Parenti also attributes this increased interest in EOPs to LCOs branching out and providing more services. Therefore, the early order programs provide an easy way for them to stock up on supplies they’ll need and budget accordingly.
“We’re seeing a lot of add-on services and that might be one of the reasons for the EOP ordering trend in lawn,” he says. “If you’re planning on that, EOP is a great time to get that product and add that service because you’ll know what your cost will be.”
Larissa Wolfe, customer marketing manager, turf & ornamentals with Bayer, says they have also seen continual increase in popularity for its EOP program. Wolfe adds she expects the trend to continue upward this year.
“Early indications/feedback from our customers show an even greater focus in 2021, due to increased shipping, fuel and raw material costs,” she says.
Schwenke shares similar insight, saying the coronavirus pandemic has caused plenty of supply chain disruptions that LCOs will want to avoid.
“This year, I’d expect to see some nice trends and more customers participating in EOP because I think they are all feeling and sensing how difficult it is becoming to acquire the product they need when they need it,” she says.
“Timelines are taking longer. Shipping, trucking, employees get sick. It just sets back the timeline when you talk about logistics and shipping.”
COVID also caused a need for more participation in EOPs for suppliers too.
“Due to the fact that we are very much still working in this COVID environment, it’s more important now than ever for customers to sit down, plan and get their orders in, so they can get product to apply for their customers due to the extended timelines it takes for us to get our materials — including our boxes, our labels and our production,” Schwenke says.
Last year, amid the pandemic, was the first time Green County Fertilizer began offering a chemical early order program. The business had previously offered similar rebates for its fertilizers.
“We sort of tip-toed into it to see how the whole thing would work and then kind of created our own EOP just based on the margins of the material, and it worked extremely well,” said John Perry, president, founder and CEO of the company.
“But last year, with COVID, we didn’t really have an opportunity to advertise it. Everything went away…it was definitely different, but we had some really good success with it.”
Perry also says ensuring products during these uncertain times is a primary benefit of utilizing EOPs.
“I think the biggest benefit to the operator is just knowing what your costs are before going into the new year,” he says.
“Given the volatility in the chemical market right now, I would say for most people it would be smart to get things ordered early because of supply line pinches and how often prices are changing. It’s really moved significantly just in the last four to five months.”
Perry adds he doesn’t expect to see these disruptions disappear any time soon.
“We know there were shortages in key ingredients for particular pesticides and that really drove the market push and I don’t believe that’s been fully remedied yet,” he says. “I’d say it’s very important to get those orders in, just so the manufacturers know what they need to be getting out.”
Tricks of the trade.
There are several things LCOs should consider when ordering for next season. Parenti says most importantly should be business benchmarks for the year.
“At this time of year, a lot of people are going over their business plans and coming up with their strategy and growth goals for next year,” he says. “I would have those with them when they look at an EOP.
Another thing to keep in mind, Parenti says, is knowing the suppliers are there to assist LCOs every step of the way.
“Don’t hesitate to reach out to your distributor representative, your manufacturer or a market specialist,” he says. “We have plenty of tools that can help to calculate it any way you like. We have rebate calculators, cost per use calculators and acreage calculators. We can always help walk you through it.”
Schwenke says Syngenta has similar tools to help LCOs determine exactly how much they’ll save.
“A really good way for them to plan is by visiting our GreenCast website,” she says. “When they come to our website, they’re going to see all the different elements that make up the EOP program.
“They’re going to see where they can save, but they’re also going to be able to use our online calculator. And when they go and start placing the volumes of products they need into this calculator, it’s going to show very clearly what their rebate potential and savings is.”
While some LCOs may be hesitant to utilize EOPs because of the upfront costs, BASF notes that most programs offer extended payment terms usually until the following June, which makes them more beneficial.
Schwenke says this should also reduce any reluctance over having to pay up right away.
“Sometimes they are thinking ‘I don’t have the cashflow right now,’” Schwenke says. “But we do offer summer pay terms, so they can make those purchases now during EOP and defer that payment until June 24, 2022.”
And while EOPs are known for big savings, Wolfe advises doing your due diligence before committing to a program. She says that while some products may be significantly cheaper, they might not be as effective.
“Cheaper products may save money on the front end but can ultimately cost more by resulting in a higher number of callbacks, which can be even more costly given the current labor shortages,” Wolfe says. “Early order programs give LCOs the best of both worlds by offering premium products at discounted prices.”
Perry says a common fear he’s heard from LCOs when it comes to early order programs is overordering. While some may want to err on the side of caution, Perry suggests ensuring you have enough to make it through.
“A significant amount of companies will take returns on material,” he says. “So, that is something that can be done. You can return and typically get a full refund for material.”