Reesink Turfcare

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Inside Russells Groundcare

Russells Groundcare operates from three sites covering the four counties of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It was appointed a Toro service centre in 2000 and given full dealer status for the Toro product range in 2005. Here Paul Russell, CEO, and Mark Willerton, groundcare sales manager, share with us their insights of the industry.

How did the dealership start?

In the late 1990s colleagues Mark Lowe and Kark Green set up in business as K&M Mowers after being made redundant. The first professional franchise secured was Hayter and in 2000 it was appointed as a Toro service centre. In January 2005 K&M Mowers was given full dealer status for the Toro product range with Mark Willerton joining the company as salesman. The company grew rapidly and in 2008 a deal was struck to sell the business to Russells (Kirbymoorside) Ltd. Today, Russells operates from three sites covering the four counties of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Karl, Mark Lowe and Mark Willerton continue to be involved in the business.


What’s your recipe for success as a Toro dealer?

Understanding our customer’s needs and keeping things simple. We have specialist sales staff for the different sectors we operate in to make sure the different requirements of each are catered for. The workforce operates as a team with the culture to provide first class customer service, despatching spare parts daily on an overnight service and with a four-hour response time target for breakdown callouts.


What have been the biggest changes in the industry (apart from COVID)?

Climate change has seen mowing season extended way beyond the traditional seasons of March to October meaning there is now no quiet time and demand for machinery is virtually year long. The winter servicing period has been condensed from five months to literally a few weeks. The other major change is the level of technology which has entered the industry over the last few years. Hybrid and electric machines, remote control and autonomy, these things are only going to continue accelerate with the lack of labour in the industry.


How do you see your role in helping customers buy and maintain their Toro equipment?

We respond quickly to enquiries with advice, demonstrations and quotations. We have an

in-house finance manager and can explore finance options to help fit machinery requirements to customers’ business cashflow. All new machinery is installed with the customer to ensure they understand how to achieve the best performance from their investment and fully trained technicians provide onsite aftersales service. We’ve seen an increasing number of customers opting for monthly visits to carry out machine inspections and carry out preventative maintenance helping keep equipment in prime condition, reducing downtime and cost. All this is backed up by a well stock parts department providing overnight parts delivery direct to our customer.


What’s your current top seller – and why do you think that it is ?

Toro LT-F3000 triple flail mower has been an absolute game changer in the commercial market. With cuts in budgets and the longer wetter mowing seasons we are now experiencing, this machine lets customers tackle a wide variety of mowing tasks from long lush roadside verges to amenity areas, parks and playing fields. It leaves clippings evenly spread, with minimal adjustments and reduced operating and maintenance costs over traditional cylinder mowers.


How do you see the future of the industry and your role in it?

The industry future currently looks challenging with the shortage of labour, substantial increase in costs of machinery since Covid and increased interest rates. Our role as a dealer is being proactive to help find our customers ways to solve these problems. The solutions are autonomous or more productive machines to help overcome labour shortages and providing innovative finance solutions coupled with first class aftersales service to minimise costly downtime.


Are you seeing a demand for green/eco-friendly machines?

The demand for ecofriendly machines is definitely increasing and we’re noticing battery-powered hand-held equipment such as strimmers and hedge-trimmers replacing traditional two-stroke petrol products. Golf courses are opting for hybrid or full electric mowers for reduced noise, enjoying the reduction of oil leakage risks and local authorities now have targets to meet in reducing carbon emissions and electric utility vehicles and mowers play their part in achieving those targets.


Is there one specific thing that you feel is the reason for your dealership’s success?

Simple answer is the people. We’re a close-knit team with good levels of staff retention with everyone prepared to go that extra mile for our customers.


If you could change the industry for the better, what one thing would you want to see?

A national apprentice training scheme supported by OEMs and distributors to help bring new blood into the industry.


Have you noticed any new trends in how your customers are buying turfcare machinery?

The biggest change is customers looking to extend the life cycle of their equipment which has been driven in the main by the rapid and substantial increase in prices over the last few years. This means total cost of ownership is becoming a decisive factor which is where the Toro product really scores with build quality, longer service intervals, ease of maintenance and strong residual values.


From a customer viewpoint, what changing market perceptions do you think are out there, in regards buying turfcare machinery?

The need for improved productivity and the willingness to explore and invest in new autonomous technologies driven by the difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.


Other than sales, do you provide other services, such as maintenance, consultancy, finance and how important are these?

We provide a full package including finance, parts and maintenance and machinery hire. These are equally as important as the quality of the aftersales service which will often be a major factor in customer considerations when purchasing their next machine. Hire plays a significant role as it allows customers both access to seasonal use or specialist machinery without capital investment and allows customers to have a longer evaluation of a machine than could be provided by traditional demonstration.


Do you utilise any extended support and sales backup from your distributors, such as Reesink?

Yes, we try to utilise the support offered by our suppliers whether this be in the form of training, demonstration support, loan of additional machinery to help customers with tournaments, finance programmes – both retail for customers or stocking schemes for us as a business.


What one thing do you think your customers appreciate the most from buying their turfcare machinery from your dealership?

Honesty in all aspects, whether we’re talking about machine capabilities, lead time for delivery of new machinery, cost or timescale of a machine repair or availability of a spare part. We work on the principle that if our customers have accurate honest information (which isn’t always good news), then they are in the best position to make an informed decision and they will ultimately respect our honesty.


What would help create new or repeat business and loyalty from your customers?

A wider portfolio of products always helps to build brand loyalty. Also with the increasing complexity of equipment provision of a specialist to assist with customer installation and training to ensure they get maximum benefit from their investment.