Charterhouse Turf Machinery have 28 dealers nationwide, a mixture of multi-branch depots and some independent distributors. Sales Manager Nick Darking, explores the benefits of the dealer network to Charterhouse and together with Andy Jones, Managing Director of Major Owen and Steve Dommett, Director of Devon Garden Machinery, they look at the changes in the turf care industry and product offerings over the last 30 years.
Why is your dealer network so important to you?
ND: As a smallish company, our dealer network is vital to provide distribution channels around the country. The dealers become our eyes, ears and feet on the ground tailoring their services to the needs of their demographic area. The main benefit is the after-sales service they provide. Being in the customer’s territory, they can respond quickly – for customers that’s vital, especially if they need help and advice quickly.
How do you select a dealer?
ND: We’re lucky in that our dealer network doesn’t change very much, we’ve got dealers like Major Owen and Devon Garden Machinery who have been with us for over 25 years and like us have been through the good times and the bad. When we look at new dealers, our main criteria is a professional outlook, a good parts department and on the road service engineers to provide support.
What changes have you witnessed in the turf care industry over the years?
AJ: When I first started, a lot of work such as aeration and mowing was done with old fashioned hand tools. Since then, mechanisation has rocketed and over the last 30 years has been the key to developments in the machinery industry.
SD: As we’ve seen with technology in general, everything needs to be done quicker. This has a knock on effect for greenkeepers – they’re under pressure to get surfaces ready, getting operations done in shorter windows which has forced machinery manufacturers to develop and deliver the kit to make this possible.
ND: Techniques change over the years, this is also down to the focus on education within the industry which is a very good thing. Groundsmen and Greenkeepers now have a level of understanding far greater than it’s ever been and when they, and in fact the players, demand better results we have to respond to that.
How has your machinery fleet had to adapt to those changes?
AJ: We’ve not necessarily seen new machines, just more productive ones. Take the Verti-Drain as a good example – when we started working with them they were very good at what they did but they weren’t as quick and efficient as the models we enjoy today. Topdressing and seeding machinery too, they’re all a lot quicker and more accurate.
What has been your involvement with the Synthetic industry?
ND: Synthetic surfaces have had a big impact on the industry and its growing year upon year. Charterhouse were one of the first companies to launch a range of synthetic machinery and dealers were understandably nervous about the unknown but over a relatively short time period the equipment has changed dramatically. Charterhouse hired a product specialist, Curtis Allen, to learn about, and liaise with, the industry and that helped. Not all the dealers have taken on synthetic kit, those that haven’t tend to feel it’s not where their market lies.
AJ: The synthetic industry here in North Wales is still really finding its feet. The financial resources and constraints are very different so it’ll grow but it’s a slow burner.
SD: Demand is relatively low here at the moment, and although we’re seeing an increase in the number of pitches I think a greater understanding of the requirement for machinery is needed before people will invest in the kit.
Is that the same for the Graden line of machinery that Charterhouse now stock?
SD: We previously did Graden when it was being imported by Kensetts. Now, under the wing of Charterhouse, it’s being publicised more and helping to cement it into people’s regimes for the future.
ND: This product line was accepted more widely and more quickly because it already had an established name. 99% of dealers were delighted because it’s such a straightforward product to slot into our natural product range.
How good do you consider Charterhouse’s dealer support to be?
AJ: We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary as a Charterhouse dealer this year and the relationship we’ve built has always been great. Their dealer support is fantastic, right through from the initial sales lead through to the demo and getting the product out.
SD: We recently recognised 25 years of working with Charterhouse and the relationship we’ve built is personal, and that’s not really changed. As neither of us are massive organisations having a team that you know and can contact easily is so important.