Winter Work: The Truth About Discounts

I’ve talked before about what landscape projects can be done in the winter in the Virginia – Maryland – DC area. The question I often get is, can this job be done cheaper because the landscape contractor is looking for winter work? The answer is: sometimes. But don’t bet on it.

The simple reason for this is productivity. Think about the last time you stopped at the gas station on a cold, windy winter day. You probably fumbled with the gas cap, fumbled with the pump, and fumbled with your credit card. Now think about being out there all day long, cutting block or hanging joists. You just can’t move as efficiently in cold weather as you can on a sunny, seventy degree day. The days are shorter, too, so while a normal crew day in summer may be ten hours (including travel time) you don’t get as long a work day in winter.

The fact of the matter is, companies love winter work because it’s a way to keep the employees working so they can pay their bills, and it brings revenue in for the business. Profit margins are thinner, though, because most companies don’t mark winter work way up to compensate for lower productivity. We just got 5″ of snow, and the guys will be back on site tomorrow to continue demolishing a wood retaining wall for one of my projects. The owner of the company has locked up all the gas and electric saws until the snow melts. He’s paying them the extra hours it’ll take to disassemble the wall by hand because he doesn’t want someone getting hurt while using power tools on a slick site. He’s not charging the homeowner more; it’s just a cost of doing business in the winter.

So, it’s possible that you’ll see a small discount offered, just to keep the employees working through the winter. I’d be leery of someone offering fire sale prices, though, as that may be a sign they’re not great about knowing their numbers – and that often comes back to bite the client.

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