LIKE many truck equipment distributors, the past two winters have brought a seemingly endless stream of strong winds, cold temperatures, and brisk sales of snow-control equipment.
Last winter the Midwest was pummeled. This year, it has been more the Northeast. But last year was so severe that Badger Truck Equipment in Milwaukee’s West Allis suburb was working hard to meet demand right up to the beginning of 2015.
“We had a good, strong autumn,” says Shawn Centell, truck equipment production for Badger Truck Equipment. “Ma and pa companies, municipalities, everyone was buying. We had a flood of sales. And with all the plowing that had to be done last winter, there was a lot of damage to the roads. The repairs that had to be made helped our truck equipment sales this summer. Sales were great through December.”
Centell says that as the brisk demand for snow and ice control equipment began to wane in the middle of this winter, general truck equipment sales began to grow.
“The overall economy really seems to be taking off around here,” he says. “Just about everything we have is selling well—flats, dumps, service bodies. We have had an excellent first quarter, and we expect that to carry over into the second.”
One thing to consider about the company’s sales: They were achieved without a dedicated truck equipment sales person.
That’s because Badger Truck Equipment is part of Badger Truck Center, a truck dealer group with locations in downtown Milwaukee, suburban West Allis, and New Glarus—a town with a population just over 2,000 people located about two hours west of Milwaukee. It is the truck sales personnel who also sell truck equipment.
So does working for a truck dealer hinder the ability to sell truck equipment to a competitor?
“It can get a little touchy when we try to sell truck equipment to other dealers,” Centell says. “But with time, we have shown other dealers that we are offering them the same price as we charge internally.”
Fewer truck dealers are in that category now that Badger has added the Ram brand to its truck lineup by acquiring a Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep brands. This recent acquisition of this dealership in New Glarus helps round out a truck lineup that already included Ford and Isuzu.
“Badger has been in the truck business a long time,” Centell says. “We will be celebrating our 50th anniversary this year. Over the years, we have built up a good customer base that’s a steady source of upfits for us.”
Mixing it up
Badger Truck Equipment shares an 18-bay shop with the company’s Isuzu dealership. Service bays on the west side of a central aisle way are used for truck equipment. The bays on the east side of the aisle are used for Isuzu service work.
“It almost always works out the way we have it set up,” Centell says. “Sometimes we need the other guys’ area. We all pitch in when we need to.”
Technicians in their shop tend to have their own areas of specialty. Management, however, works both sides of the aisle. That includes Dan Zuzanski. He is responsible for the marketing efforts of all eight of the company’s divisions. Centell handles bidding and quotations. The West Allis location, home of the truck equipment operation and Isuzu dealership also has a single operations manager, service writer, and inside sales person.
Moving snow equipment
Snow and ice control equipment is one of Badger Truck Equipment’s main product categories.
“We install all year around because we sell a lot to landscapers,” Centell says. “With municipal accounts, they buy whenever they are authorized to do so.”
The intensity of last year’s winter had an impact on this year’s buying patterns.
“It started early,” Centell says. “The big snowplow operators always buy early, then it stops. Once we get that first snowfall, it will start back up again. We get a flood of orders once it starts snowing again.”
The company prepared for the expected strong sales by increasing its pre-season order.
“We got 90 plows in stock,” Centell says. “That’s the biggest we have had in quite some time.”
Variety of products
Badger has a variety of product to sell its customers, including Buyers’ Salt Dogg line, Swenson spreaders, and Western’s line of plows and spreaders. Badger’s West Allis facility is just a few miles from Western’s headquarters.
“We are the centralized distributor for Western in Milwaukee,” Centell says. “We have three subdistributors who help us sell and service the line in our trade area.”
The subdistributors help keep plows operating, especially during snow events.
“Not very many of our technicians live close to our shop,” Centell says. “That makes it more of a challenge for us to offer 24-hour service. We do have subdistributors who provide around-the-clock service.”
Snow and ice control equipment is a year-round business at Badger.
“We sell a lot of municipal plows,” Centell says. “Municipalities buy whenever their purchase is approved and they get the money. Plus, we do a lot of work with landscapers. We install plows for them throughout the year.”
Badger Truck Equipment is the truck equipment operation Badger Truck Center, a multi-brand truck dealership. At the company’s facility in West Allis, an Isuzu dealership and truck equipment is comingled.
The shop has 18 bays. The bays on the west side of the building are dedicated to truck equipment, while the bays on the other side of the center aisle are used by the Isuzu truck dealership.
“This arrangement almost always works,” Centell says. “Every once in a while, one side will get swamped and will have to use part of the other side. ♦