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Experts help weigh the risks and benefits of price increases

January 31, 2023 -  By
(Photo: LM Staff)

LM Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones (foreground) with the Price Isn’t Right panel at Equip Expo and attendees. Jones was joined on stage by (left to right) Nada Duna, Gothic Landscape; Barb Stropko, New Desert Gallery; Steve Steele, Bruce Wilson and Co.; and Sam Gembel, Atlas Outdoor. (Photo: LM Staff)

Rising prices are hitting consumers across all sectors. Owners in the lawn care and landscape industry are also getting hit in their wallets. But what is the best way to pass along these rising prices to their customers?

At the 2022 Equip Expo in Louisville, Ky., a panel of industry veterans discussed their methods and philosophies for increasing prices. Nada Duna, COO of Gothic Landscape; Sam Gembel, owner of Atlas Outdoor; Steve Steele, financial and business practices leader at Bruce Wilson and Co.; and Barb Stropko, owner and vice president of New Desert Gallery, were the four panelists.

Steele advised the room that there is no industry-wide perfect percentage price increase to abide by.

“There are basic economic factors that will impact each of you, but a lot of what you look at in terms of pricing has to be based on one word. And that word is data,” Steele told the room. “Understand your data, and if you don’t have access to data, or you don’t know how to get it, or you don’t have systems that allow you to get it, that’s where you need to put your time and your effort.”

Don’t wait

Gembel said his regret over the last few years is that he was scared to ruffle his clients’ feathers with price increases until it became absolutely necessary.

“Landscapers will just ride the wave. And I think it’s so sad that we used to live like that,” Gembel said. “We explain to clients this is seven years of us not messing with your price and it’s just getting us to where we need to be. If we would’ve just done a 3- to 4-percent increase (annually), most people won’t bat an eye at that. But what they will get ticked about is when you hit them with something that in their eyes doesn’t make sense.”

Duna added that it’s not easy to take the risk of rising prices. She encouraged the room to be emboldened that everyone is in a similar situation.

“I advise everybody, to take a risk. If you don’t take a risk, nothing is going to happen because fear is not going to be what drives the industry forward,” she said. “Know your customer’s business. We deal with a lot of commercial property management, high-tech campuses. Different segments are going through different economic hardships themselves. We tried to find out what is happening on their end. And you know what? They’re raising their tenants’ prices by 12 percent. So, I say take that risk.”

Communication is key

Gembel added he shares with his customers how Atlas Outdoor is improving efficiency to offset the price increase.
“I tell them ‘Hey, we’re at Equip Expo looking at more efficient mowers,’” he said. “Because there was this window where people were okay with you raising the price, but then they also want to know that you’re doing your part to try to get more efficient. I feel like that window (for raising prices) is closing now.”

Stropko encouraged the audience that if they were confident that their services were exceptional, customers wouldn’t leave them over a price increase. In fact, their customers might be more fearful of being dropped by their lawn care company, based on the demands of the industry.

“I just think that people and us as an industry should have more confidence and be proud of what we do,” she said. “Because if you produce and give them something they cannot get anywhere else, they’re not going to leave.

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Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at

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