Do you decrease your prices in the fall?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by JimLewis, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I suppose in some areas of the country landscaping in general is less seasonal. But here in the Northwest, it's VERY seasonal. Very few calls come in for landscaping after Oct. 1st. And then it stays that way through about the middle or end of Feb.

    We can still do landscaping work here most days in the fall and winter. It's just that the overwhelming demand we see the rest of the year all but disappears.

    From March - Sept. customers in this area can hardly even get a call back from a landscaper, much less an appointment. Demand is so high that I can land most jobs just by showing up for the bid. But in the fall it's the opposite. There are so many landscapers hungry for work that a customer can get 3 or 4 competing bids within just one or two days and they are all at drastically lower prices. So competition is fierce this time of year too.

    I hate to have to lay workers off. So starting Oct. 1st if we are not totally booked for jobs, I'll start lowering our labor rates just to stay busy. I'll lower them by a good 20%, giving up most of the profit we'd usually make from our jobs. But without any work coming in, I find we have to lay guys off and it's also difficult to keep up with ongoing overhead expenses. So if we have jobs - even at less profit - at least that keeps the bills paid and workers working.

    Anyone else do the same? Or do you stick to your guns no matter what time of year the bid is given?
  2. ballstar

    ballstar Banned
    Messages: 37

    Depends how I'm feeling. Some people get charged out the tail, others don't.
  3. green horizons

    green horizons LawnSite Member
    from zone 5
    Messages: 144

    My answer is yes and no. Bidding is tricky business. The later the season the more apt I am to lower the price some. My busy season is about 9mos. of the year, so if somebody calls during the other 3mos., I usually let them know that I'm willing to discount some, but please do not call me in May and want the same pricing. Locally, there seems to be two types of landscape contractors, those that go for the gusto because it might be the only work they see for three months, and those that discount slightly to retain employees, keep work on the books and make a new customer contact. The trickiest part to "off seaon" work is getting the phone to ring!
  4. DBL

    DBL LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,219

    wow me and my brother are going through the same thing....we are staying busy just not completely full on the schedule. my brother usually takes the customer communication and paper work side of the business and he brought this up to me a while ago and has been doing for about the last 2 weeks since its been so dry and we have the grass crew working with us as well and it has kept us really busy by only giving people 10% - 15% discounts on the jobs. I was not happy at first but its better than all i think its necessary to stay busy and by no means is this low balling its just a way of business
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876


    You're right, it's by no means low-balling. Our prices are usually 20%-30% or more higher than the competition's prices anyway. So decreasing our labor rate still doesn't even come close to undercutting other's prices.

    And like you, it's been working well for us. We just landed our biggest job ever in 11 years. I had to give up $100 a day in labor to get the job. But to get a $47,000 job that will keep one crew busy for another 4 weeks, it was well worth it, I think. That kind of job is few and far between for us, even in the summer. And unheard of this time of year. We also landed 2 other nice installations too. All a little rare this time of year. And I think those were in large part due to the decrease in pricing. Although the one paver job we got - the guy told me we were still $1000 higher than the other company he got a bid from. But he was more impressed with us. So we got it. But if I had been charging our regular rates, that would have made us a good $1500 higher than the other guy. That could have meant we didn't get that job.

    Overall, it's been working well. We'll be mostly full for the remainder of October. We'll see if I can keep it up for November.... :confused:
  6. shane mapes

    shane mapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 537

    if you can still pull a profit and pay your bills with out laying off , thats prob lay the best way. we don't slow up until dec. then were back up by late jan or feb...but theirs so much competition out here its not funny ..mostly illegal and not licensed ......i tell my customers that my prices might be a little higher then most of the fly by night guys , but i'm here for the long haul . not just for a quick buck then gone.......
  7. Mike33

    Mike33 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,649

    Im a small company and close down the week before thanksgiving normaly due to weather. I try to go higher because we normally are busy so i can choose want i want to do. This also helps my winter cash flow because i will be off until mid march. But location, location, and location will probably dictate your business policy.
  8. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 724

    I used to sell work for a tree service and I learned from a guy to sell winter work all year long not just in the fall. That doesn't mean every estimate you try to talk them into waiting but all of the people that are pushing for deals, the jobs you may not be crazy about doing but you would if you had to, sometimes smaller jobs that bigger companies blow off, tell them up front that you'll offer them a discount to do it in the off-season. If they take it great, if they don't fine, you don't want to waste your prime season with them anyway.

    I also found it helps to upsell the merits of your company, so they know they are waiting for good service not just cheap price (hopefully that's true :) ), focus on the positives of doing it that time of year whatever they may be.

    That's a beautiful area where you're at. I have relatives that live in Boring and Vancouver.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    Yah, we do that too. There are several people we've told to call us back in the fall or winter if they wanted us to do it at a lower price. They all seemed interested in that. But haven't got too many call backs yet.

    Yah, if you say so. :rolleyes: My idea of beautiful is sunny and hot weather, tall palm trees lining boulevards and swimming pools in every back yard. :cool:

    I think I've been in OR too long. :(
  10. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    jim lewis, i posted a while back about the lack of major jobs this year after july... Im sort of busy through October, but for your question, yes i press a 20% labor discount on jobs and since i get plants 30% off usually i try to pass that on to most customers to get their jobs in before the cold weather.

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