It’s no longer my fight for the brand name, but I still feel responsible for the cylinder mower market. Over the last five years, this segment has changed a bit and the changes continue. This post is a response to an inconspicuous campaign that Allett launched on the Internet and I think it is targeting Swardman. As far as I know there are only few people abroad who know why Swardman was born, and how Allett contributed to that. I apologize to the loyal readers for this trip into the past, but you will soon understand the reason.
So let’s take it fast. It was year 2010, I was happy to import ATCO cylinder mowers from England to the Czech Republic and sold hundreds of them. In September, I received a message that ATCO was ending its production and decided not to continue. There was no adequate replacement on the market at that point and I still had a lot of orders and people increasingly wanted to mow with cylinder mowers.
I tried to buy ATCO, but I couldn’t. Subsequently, however, Austin Jarrett from Allett did, bought the production of ATCO (models Balmoral, Windsor, Royale, Club) without the ATCO brand and started producing the „new“ Allett line. He contacted me and wanted to cooperate. I asked him about his marketing plan and what were his intentions with the brand, but he never got back to me with those. Nevertheless, I ordered a larger number of mowers from him as there was significant customer pressure. However, the beginning of production was accompanied by problems and he did not deliver the mowers to the promised date which resulted in me being forced to return the deposits to the customers. Eventually I found a different way and bought mowers through a British wholesaler. With a sort of hesitation, I can say that I sold the last manufactured pieces of ATCO and the first manufactured ones of Allett. In reality I think I sold serial numbers maybe ..1, but definitely ..2 etc.
When there were production problems in England, I had no other choice but to develop my own cylinder mower and this give to my customers the quality product they expect. Naturally, it took some time.
I founded Swardman in 2013, in 2014 I teamed up with a young talented designer Marek Votroubek and he finally found the key to my und customers’ satisfaction in what a modern cylinder mower should look like and how it should work. In 2015, we started production of the Edwin cylinder mower (Edwin Budding was the inventor of the lawn mower 1830). The product development was a continuous process and improvements took place every month. We soon started working on the development of a cordless mower, because it was missing on the market and we wanted a super quiet maintenance-free cylinder mower.
We called it Electra and in 2019 she received the German Design Award. In the meantime, in our spare time, my main designer, Mark Votroubek, and I developed a cylinder mower for football pitches. In the spring of 2019, the new owner of Swardman fired me. At that time Swardman had customers in almost thirty countries around the world. Yes, in those four years we achieved what many companies in the industry have not been able to in twenty years.
The models manufactured by Allett were created at ATCO in 1996, and since then they have not changed much apart from the engine. I longed to have a modern lawn mower for the 21st century. They say that the English are conservative and that is perfectly fine with me. Let them enjoy the things that work, I also like their racing green color. But innovation is simply happening outside of Britain. Allett came up with Liberty at the same time as us with Electra. Liberty is their cordless version of the cylinder mower. Development on it was minimal, they used components from their electric models with a cable and used a standardized battery pack instead of a cable. They did the same with the model for football pitches.
As much as it may be painful for someone, especially a UK reader, but my view is that Allett has wasted ten years by not changing anything in the cylinder mowers. It did not improve the design, it did not improve user comfort, it did not increase safety. Almost zero change.
And then there was Swardman, whose prime agenda was to be innovative. And even though neither Marek Votroubek nor I work with Swardman anymore, Swardman can benefit from our innovations for another ten years and will still be more modern and sexier than Allett.
However, another problem arose. The fact is that Swardman wants to be, more than anything else, a classic manufacturer of lawn mowers. It might sound like a small thing, but it’s about the company’s DNA and brain, so sooner or later everything will start to follow. Swardman will die wanting to be like Allett.
Be that as it may, believe me, my seemingly bad experience with cylinder mowers didn’t really take away my desire to make people happy from how great a lawn mower can be when you have a great machine. And the last thing I want is to see the funeral of these brands. I’m truly grateful to them for many things.
My unsolicited advice to Allett: nowadays, one cannot fight the market with conservatism.
And my advice to Swardman: manufacturing hardware has never made any company the world number 1.
PS: If you are not able to deliver on time and pretend to be a world champion, expect big problems within ten years.