A top seller for 5-plus years at the original JayDee locations, Seed Hawk’s precision drill has since been introduced across Saskatchewan to the former Maple Farm Equipment stores.
When JayDee AgTech and Maple Farm Equipment merged together under the Pattison Agriculture ownership group in early 2014, the result was a dealer network that has since expanded to 19 locations across Saskatchewan and Manitoba. While it brought in a diverse customer base with opportunities to grow further, it also brought in over 60 different shortlines across all locations, some with unique restrictions in their distribution contracts.
It’s a complex scenario to say the least, and a responsibility that Pattison Ag’s Vice President of Business Development Kevin Hitchings has the distinction of sorting through since being appointed to the newly created position in January 2017. At the moment, Hitchings says Pattison intends to continue doing business with almost all of the shortlines on contract prior to the merger, as the chief concern for the network is ensuring that all customers have the optimal machinery for their particular operation
With the way the merger ended up, most of the former Maple Farm Equipment stores stretch across the eastern border of Saskatchewan, while JayDee AgTech’s are located at the opposite end of the region. The result, Hitchings says, is no universal solution for the shortlines offered.
Saskatchewan, 17 (Balcarres, Foam Lake, Humboldt, Kamsack, Kelvington, Kindersley, Kyle, Leader, Maple Creek, Moosomin, North Battleford, Preeceville, Shaunavon, Swift Current, Unity, Wynyard, Yorkton)
Manitoba, 2 (Russell, Swan River) 7 (Estevan, Lloydminster, Melfort, Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current)
Ownership: Jim Pattison Group
Primary Line:John Deere
Secondary Lines: Bourgault, Brandt, Precision Trailers, Bobcat, SeedMaster, Schulte Industries, Degelman Industries, Unverferth, Ariens, Stihl, New Leader, Soucy International, Free Form Plastic, Dawson Tire & Wheel, Hagie, SeedHawk-Vaderstad, Frontier, HLA Horst Products, Leon, MD Product Solutions, Renn Mill Center Inc., Agri Spread NA Inc, Honey Bee, MACDON, Dutch, Enduraplast, Hay Buster, Highline, Pattison Liquid Systems, Mandako, A&I, Michael Industries, Shellborne, Tama, Teamco Inc. & Snowblast, Trail Tech Trailers, CJ Trailers, Lemken, Kirchner Manufacturing, Rodono, Valmar, a Division of the Salford group, Harry’s Tire Farm, Intelligent Ag Blockage System, Salford Seeding & Tillage, Bridgeview Manufacturing Inc., Convey All Industries, Farm King, Tide Industries, Landoll, Westward, Camoplast, Techtite Cabs, Raven, Pit Express, Liquid Systems, Capstan Pinpoint, Bergen Industries, Riteway, Spray Test Controls Inc., Tridekon, AWS
“There’s different areas that need different equipment,” Hitchings says. “The west is peas and lentils and crops like that, where the east is more canola, cereals, those types of crops. So we do have some differentiation there.”
Some Winners, Some Losers
Hitchings notes that not all of the shortline contracts signed prior to the merger will live to see an extension, but in certain cases, the fit between machinery and region is spot-on and the relationship will continue to thrive. Such is the case with Seed Hawk, which was already an established shortline with JayDee AgTech and universally offered across their western Saskatchewan dealership chain.
Similar to other dealerships in the area, JayDee invested in Seed Hawk’s precision drill because of its reputation for being reliable and accurate with placement in a seeding-oriented region. While primarily a John Deere network, Hitchings says Pattison continues to view Seed Hawk as a viable alternative to its mainline, especially since one size never fits all for any particular type of machine.
“They offer a unique product and it’s also competitively priced as a middle range vs. a Deere product,” Hitchings says. “It gives us the opportunity to build relationships with customers that maybe wouldn’t normally stop at our dealership.”
While a mainstay at the original JayDee locations for about 5 years, Seed Hawk has since been introduced across the former Maple Farm Equipment locations in the past 6 months.
But for other shortlines with issues such as a poor fit with the region or selling restrictions that limit the product to only 4 or 5 locations, Hitchings believes that at some point, whatever benefit those lines may bring to product versatility won’t outweigh the contractual headaches.
“As we move forward, we’ll be looking for probably the stronger OEMs that we deal with,” Hitchings says. “And to keep it simpler, the lines that we can sell out of all of our locations are the ones we’ll probably prefer to deal with, vs. the ones we can only sell out of a select few.”
Know the Role, Fill the Need
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While Pattison already has its fair share of shortlines on contract, the wheels are always turning toward the next big opportunity for customer and dealership alike to cash in. It’s a multi-step process, which like many dealerships includes ensuring it fits a customer need, providing the worthwhile return on investment and offering excellent service and parts. But additionally, Hitchings says understanding how a particular shortline can help sell other machinery already in stock at a given location is vital. After all, he notes, one of the primary roles of a shortline is complementing the featured products.
“It definitely has to be a fit and promote our mainline also,” Hitchings says. “So a Seed Hawk drill, for example, might help us sell another tractor. It’s pretty tough to get the market share that we need to with just one line or one product.”
Reaping the Benefits
With the customer base of each location differing in size and operational need, Hitchings notes that shortlines are able to capitalize on different scenarios with specifically designed equipment, and doing so in an efficient manner. This is possible in part, Hitchings says, because most mainlines are expanded to the point where regional adjustments can’t be made quickly enough.
The result is what Hitchings believes to be a continuous trend toward satisfied customers at the dealership, and an overall boost in the evolution of machinery.
“Where a lot of these concepts come from are the small communities,” he says. “It’s really a breeding ground for a lot of ideas.”
Another bonus Hitchings credits to shortlines is an uptick in training opportunities across the Pattison locations, especially for the sales departments. More often than not, tasking new salespeople with shortline equipment can be a major confidence booster going forward.
“They can go out and sell products that aren’t as intimidating as selling a 4WD tractor or combine,” he says. “It’s a matter of pitching something that’s $150,000 vs. $800,000.”