SIC 3524

This entry discusses establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing lawn mowers, lawn and garden tractors, and other lawn and garden equipment used for home lawn and garden care. It also includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing snow blowers and throwers for residential use. Other equipment classified here includes: wagons and carts for lawn and garden use, lawn mover grass catchers, power hedge trimmers, power lawn edgers, loaders for garden tractors, mulchers, plow attachments for garden tractors, rototillers, seeders, and residential lawn vacuums.

Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing farm equipment and machinery are classified in SIC 3523: Farm Machinery and Equipment. Those manufacturing hand lawn and garden shears and pruners are classified in SIC 3421: Cutlery, and those manufacturing other garden handtools are classified in SIC 3424: Hand and Edge Tools, Except Machine Tools and Handsaws.

NAICS Code(s)

333112 (Lawn and Garden Tractor and Home Lawn and Garden Equipment Manufacturing)

332212 (Hand and Edge Tool Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

Lawn and garden equipment companies manufacture a variety of tools, including walk-behind power mowers, lawn tractors, tillers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, and other gas- and electric-powered equipment. In 2000, the value of industry shipments was $7.28 billion. Lawn and garden equipment manufacturers are influenced by a number of factors, such as weather conditions, the housing market, demographics, and the overall economy. The industry has been strong in the late 1990s, as aging and affluent baby boomers—those consumers born between 1947 and 1964—take up gardening and buy high-end equipment.

In the late 1990s, the industry was comprised of 145 establishments. Wisconsin supported the greatest number of lawn and garden equipment manufacturers with 12 companies, followed by Pennsylvania with 10 and California with 7. With shipments valued at $3.57 billion, consumer non-riding lawn, garden and snow equipment outperformed the riding varieties in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, the future of riding lawn and garden equipment looks promising, as baby boomers seek out less strenuous tools.

Background and Development

The nation's enthusiastic interest in lawn maintenance is relatively new, though the lawn mower itself (developed in England) has been around since the 1830s. During the same time John Deere was promoting his sodbreaking plow as the most important piece of equipment frontier farmers of the prairie could own, the push lawn mower was familiar to children of antebellum America.

In the 1930s, U.S. lawn mower sales held at about 50,000 units annually. Following World War II and the American migration to suburbs, homeowners began to take a growing pride in tending their lawns, hedges, and gardens. During this same time, new grass seed varieties were also being developed, and the quest for the "perfect" lawn became a popular hobby and a point of pride.

Reel mowers were the standard home lawn grooming device until the 1950s, when gas-powered rotary motors developed into more than a rough cutting tool. By the end of that decade, power mowers outsold reel mowers by a margin of 9 to 1. The rise in the popularity of power garden equipment was accompanied by a corresponding surge in lawn mower accidents—wounds from flying debris and toe and finger amputations. In the mid-1990s, design changes combined with news stories about equipment safety that appear in the spring (as well as when the first mower-related accident is reported) have raised public awareness.

Some of the first safety measures included attaching decks to handles with bolt-on brackets instead of cotter pins and the positioning of the starter cord away from the discharge chute. Through the development of safety standards, injuries from walk-behind power mowers have decreased 40 percent since 1983.

An era of consumer activism began in 1969, with the publishing of Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader, a book focused on the automobile industry's "indifference" to safety concerns. In 1972, the federal Consumer Product Safety Act created a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); one of the initial concerns of that agency was power lawn mower accidents. At the time an estimated 77,000 people each year were injured by the whirling blades of this equipment. Following 10 years of CPSC data gathering and testimony from experts and consumers, the first safety requirements for power lawnmowers—the deadman control and blade housing and shield designs to prevent foot injuries—were adopted.

The deadman control prevents hand injuries that can occur when operators attempt to clear the chute of wet grass without shutting down the engine. It is now standard for lawn mower (as well as snowblower) blades to stop rotating once the operator releases a spring-loaded control on the handle. Less expensive mowers may feature a simple control that shuts down the entire engine when the operator releases the handle; more expensive models stop the blade action but allow the engine to keep running.

Blade housings and shields prevent an operator's foot from accidentally slipping under the deck of the mower and into the blade. Manufacturers are required to perform a standard "foot-probe test" to ensure their product designs meet this safety requirement.

Another design change initiated by the industry requires debris (nails, rocks, small branches) be deflected onto the ground rather than flying out the chute. All of these standards have added more than $25 to the cost of mowers—which generally range in price from $100 for lower-end mowers to $700-plus for riding tractors for home consumer use. These design changes, combined with an increase in liability insurance for power mower manufacturers, accounted for a near doubling in the price of garden equipment

Current Conditions

After surviving a period of recession in the early 1990s—in which increasing numbers of consumers opted not to hire professional landscaping companies—the lawn and garden equipment industry has recovered. According to a press release issued by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (the trade organization representing 95 percent of lawn and garden equipment manufacturers), 1999 sales for consumer and commercial lawn care products were "solid" for most product categories. The value of industry shipments in 2000 totaled $7.28 billion, while the cost of materials totaled $4.8 billion.

The resurgence of lawn and garden equipment in the late 1990s was due to a number of factors. In addition to an overall booming American economy, new housing starts were up in 1998 and 1999—meaning that more consumers were now responsible for lawn care. More important to the fate of the industry, though, are the demographics. The largest generation in American history—the baby boomers—have reached their prime years for gardening and lawn care (between the ages of 45 and 64 years old). These consumers are more affluent than most generations that preceded them, and are thus more likely to purchase more expensive equipment. In the late 1990s, the National Gardening Association reported to National Home Center News that boomers accounted for about 42 percent of all purchases in the lawn and garden segment.

Industry Leaders

The Bloomington, Minnesota-based Toro Company is a leading producer of consumer and commercial care lawn mowers, as well as snow blowers. With 1998 sales above $1.2 billion, the company offers its products under a variety of brand names, including Toro, Exmark, and Dingo. Commercial sales now account for two-thirds of total revenue. Faced with declining sales for snowblowers in the winter of 1997 (because of unseasonably mild weather) and declining export revenue (because of the Asian economic crisis), Toro stopped selling its equipment exclusively through its independent dealers. By 1999, the company offered its goods at about 1,500 home centers.

The Black & Decker Corporation is another key player in the lawn and garden equipment industry. Its 1998 sales topped $4.6 billion (of which lawn equipment was only a portion). Headquartered in Towson, Maryland, Black & Decker sells such products as Grass Hog, Groom 'N'Edge, Leafbuster, and Hedge Hog. Deere and Company expanded its operations into lawn care equipment in 1991, and by 1998 sold $2.1 billion of products such as leaf blowers, mowers, small tractors, snow blowers, string trimmers, and utility vehicles. Lawn care equipment accounted for 20 percent of Deere's sales in 1998. In 1999, Deere teamed up with the Home Depot in promotions to boost sales.


In 2000, 24,731 workers were involved in the lawn and garden equipment industry, and 19,854 were production workers. Tennessee was home to the largest number of employees in this industry, with 5,739 workers, followed by Wisconsin with 3,355 and Indiana with 982. On average production employees in this sector worked 38.2 hours per week and earned $12.20 per hour in 2000.

Research and Technology

Environmental concerns are driving a number of technological changes in the industry. A growing number of states and municipalities across the country are banning grass clippings and other organic wastes from local landfills; this has been seen as an incentive to produce a growing number of mulching mowers and composting equipment. With increasing government concern directed at the amount of particulate pollution generated by the smaller motors that power home lawn equipment, a resurgence in the sale of the classic push mower is also showing itself.

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to be a strong motivator when it comes to improving lawn and garden equipment. It has been the EPA's position for some time that lawn mowers are significant polluters. A recent EPA-funded study compared gasoline mowers typically used across the country with cordless electric mowers. Gasoline-powered equipment emitted eight times more nitrogen oxides, 3,300 times more hydrocarbons, 5,000 times more carbon monoxide, and more than twice the carbon dioxide per hour of operation compared to the electric models.

The EPA study concluded that if just 20 percent of U.S. homeowners with gasoline mowers switched to cordless electric mowers, there would be annual emissions reductions of 10,800 tons of hydrocarbons, 340 tons of nitrogen oxides, 84,000 tons of carbon monoxide, and 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Gay MacGregor, a division director at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, believes that "[p]eople think that because these engines are so small, they must not pollute so much." Whereas automobiles have been regulated for 20 years, lawn mowers and other lawn and garden equipment have remained unregulated and now represent a significant source of pollution. The industry responded to many of these problems with cleaner mowers. Those mowers manufactured after September, 1997, used small fourcycle engines that exceeded EPA emission standards for small spark-ignition engines.

Further Reading

"Baby Boomers Are Digging into a New Hobby." National Home Center News , 20 July 1998.

Baker, Stephen. "Operation Push Mower." Business Week , 10 June 1996.

Doyle Driedger, Sharon. "Ever Greener: Gardening is Big Business in Canada." MacLean's , 22 April 1996.

Elstrom, Peter. "This Cat Keeps on Purring." Business Week , 20 January 1997.

"Lawn and Garden." Do-It-Yourself Retailing , 1 July 1997.

"Lawn and Garden Equipment to Near $9 Million in 2002." Appliance Manufacturer , 1 February 1999.

United States Census Bureau. "Lawn and Garden Tractor and Home Lawn and Garden Equipment Manufacturing," October 1999. Available from .

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

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