Dealer spotlight Russells Groundcare
Spring 2024

We talk to Russells Groundcare

. minute read

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 MarkWillerton, groundcare sales manager, bring their insights of the industry.

How did Russells dealership begin?

Russells Groundcare started from humble beginnings in the late 1990s when colleagues Mark Lowe and Kark Green set up in business together as K&M Mowers. The first professional franchise secured was Hayter, with further growth following in 2000 when we were appointed as a Toro service centre. In January 2005 K&M Mowers were given full dealer status for the Toro product range and Mark Willerton joined the company as salesman. The company grew rapidly and in 2008 a deal was struck to sell the business to Russells (Kirbymoorside) Ltd. Today, Karl and both Mark Lowe and Mark Willerton continue to manage the division.

From left, Mark Willerton with the dealership’s two other groundscare divisional managers Karl Green and Mark Lowe.

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

Understanding our customer’s needs and keeping things simple. We operate with separate specialised sales staff covering our golf and commercial/local authority customers as the two customer sectors have very different requirements. The whole workforce operates as a team with a culture to provide first class customer service, despatching spare parts daily on an overnight service and a four hour response time target for breakdown call outs.

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

Climate change has seen mowing season extended way beyond the traditional March to October period, meaning there is now no quiet time and the demand for machinery is virtually year-round. The winter servicing period has 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, with hybrid and electric machines, remote control and autonomy which will only continue to accelerate with the lack of labour in the industry.

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

Responding quickly to enquiries with advice, demonstrations and quotations is key. We have an in-house finance manager so are able to explore finance options with customers to help fit machinery requirements to 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 with an increasing number of customers opting for monthly visits to carry out machine inspections and preventative maintenance helping keep equipment in prime condition, reducing downtime and cost. This is backed up by a well stock parts department providing overnight parts delivery direct to our customers.

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

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

Toro’s LT-F3000 has proven itself a ‘game changer’ with customers says Russells Groundscare.

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

The industry future currently looks challenging with a shortage of labour, substantial increase in the cost 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 such as considering more productive machines and autonomous options to help with labour and provide 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. Battery powered hand-held equipment such as strimmers and hedge-trimmers replace traditional two-stroke petrol products, golf courses opting for hybrid or full electric mowers for reduced noise, oil leaks and local authorities having targets to meet in reducing carbon emissions – all play their part in achieving these targets.

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

Simple answer “the people”. We’re a close-knit team with good levels of staff retention who are all 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 equipment which has been driven in the main in the rapid and substantial increase in prices over the last few years. This means total cost of ownership is becoming decisive factor and that’s where the Toro product really scores with build quality, longer service intervals, ease of maintenance and strong residual values.

What changing market perceptions have you noticed?

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 also machinery hire. These are equally as important as the quality of the aftersales service will often be a major factor in the purchasing decision

Hire plays a significant role as it allows customers both access to seasonal use or specialist machinery without capital investment as well as taking longer to evaluate a machine.

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

We try to utilise support offered by our suppliers whether this be in the form of training, demonstrations, loan of additional machinery to help customers with tournament support, 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 are talking machine capability, lead time for delivery of new machinery, cost or timescale of a machine repair, availability of a spare part. We work on the principle that if our customers have accurate, honest information (which isn’t always good news) they are in the best position to make an informed decision and they will ultimately respect our honesty.

To talk to someone about Toro technology and how the Toro range could help your venue, call 01480 226800 or click here