Marion County unemployment is easing and home sales are up, but the atmosphere is less than rosy in the local landscaping trade. Lawn service companies and nurseries are still struggling to regain their financial footing following the recession.
Lawn care-related businesses say they face tough competition and a reluctance of consumers to spend at pre-recession levels.
David Frederick of B&B Nursery and Garden Shop said that before the recession business was much better. And despite economic improvement during the past few years, he hasn’t witnessed any trickle-down effect.
“It’s way off,” he said of revenues.
In the past, the parking lot was full from morning to closing. During a Monday afternoon telephone interview, a Star-Banner reporter asked how many cars were in his parking lot.
“None,” Frederick replied.
For the past few years, Frederick said, sales have fallen about one-third. As for customer habits, Frederick said he’s seen an across-the-board decline in what people are buying.
“I don’t know how I can go through another four years of this,” he said.
Alex Arsneault, owner of Showcase Lawn Care in Ocala, said the lawn care business remains competitive. The trade swelled a few years ago, with former construction workers offering to maintain lawns at cut-rate prices.
“There’s always someone who will do it cheaper,” Arsneault said.
Arsneault mows both residential and commercial lawns with his son. Although local unemployment levels have improved, fuel prices have stabilized for now and home sales are up, Arsneault said the small lawn care companies that got into the business during the recession remain his biggest competition.
And those upstarts don’t look to be getting out anytime soon.