Jensales owner Paul Jensen is selling farm implement manuals over the Internet in more ways than one. --Tim Engstrom
Jensales owner Paul Jensen is selling farm implement manuals over the Internet in more ways than one. -- Tim Engstrom

Archived Story

Jensales ventures into e-commerce

Published 1:20pm Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Manchester-based Jensales isn’t just about selling tractor manuals anymore. The company has ventured into Internet commerce, sales of tractor parts and direct-to-garment printing, and all three have been good for business.

Owner Paul Jensen figured sales over the Internet in general would be a big hit in rural areas, which is where most of the customers who buy parts manuals, operator manuals and service manuals for older tractors and other aging farm equipment reside. After all, rural folks have to travel farther to buy products they use every day. However, it took longer than he expected, which he said was due to rural residents typically not being early adopters of technology.

That has changed in the last three or four years, he said. Many sellers of ag equipment have increased their web presence.

A direct-to-garment printing machine enables Jensales to print cherished agriculture implement logos on shop rags. Paul Jensen said this has been a popular gift item for fathers and grandfathers.
A direct-to-garment printing machine enables Jensales to print cherished agriculture implement logos on shop rags. Paul Jensen said this has been a popular gift item for fathers and grandfathers.

Jensales invested labor and money into developing an online presence, with a website capable of e-commerce and an intuitive user experience. As a result, the company saw a 300 percent increase in sales in 2012.

Jensen said part of the reason is the website but part of it is the company partnering with larger companies that sell parts for ag machinery. When parts are sold for old tractors, customers often request a manual. “Manuals are like fries,” Jensen said. “People buy a part and get asked, ‘Would you like a manual with that?’”

The parts companies can sell manuals, provide the order to Jensales, and it ships to the customers.

Jensales sells thousands of parts it doesn’t have in stock, but it does have about 1,000 parts in stock. Some of them are for sale in a little store at the front entrace. This includes tractor headlights, steering wheels, nameplates that can double as paper weights and other classic farm pieces.
Jensales sells thousands of parts it doesn’t have in stock, but it does have about 1,000 parts in stock. Some of them are for sale in a little store at the front entrace. This includes tractor headlights, steering wheels, nameplates that can double as paper weights and other classic farm pieces.

Likewise, when customers buy manuals, they often are seeking parts, too, Jensales in 2013 intends to increase its sale of parts through the website and telephone, even though requested parts are not in the building. Jensales shoots the order over to the correct parts company, and that company ships the part to the customer.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Jensen said. “They sell our manuals, and we sell their parts.”

Jensen said being a seller of parts manuals gives Jensales a customer-service advantage that often parts guys don’t have.

“The root of the story is we have always been asked for parts,” he said.

He told an anecdote of a man in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan who had been told by his local implement dealer that the part he sought didn’t exist. The man simply couldn’t find the right term to describe the part. He tried three other parts places and got nothing.

The man finally called Jensales, which found the part number in a Saab-Scania manual. Once a part number is discovered, finding the part becomes much easier. Jensales ordered the part through Tom’s Agri Diesel in Harlan, Iowa, which shipped the part — an internal clutch bushing — directly to Saskatchewan.

“We never had the part on site, but we were the only ones who could find what he needed,” Jensen said.

Need gauges from an old Oliver tractor? Jensales has them.
Need gauges from an old Oliver tractor? Jensales has them.

Jensales has access to sell more than 100,000 parts, he said, but it maintains an inventory of about 1,000 parts in Manchester — “1 percent of what we offer,” he said.

That includes a storefront with collectibles such as tractor lights, steering wheels and nameplates that can double as paperweights.

Online sales likely will continue to rise in 2013, thanks to Amazon.

Even though many companies have their own websites with the ability to sell products, they also will sell their goods on Amazon because, as Jensen noted, customers trust Amazon.

However, anyone who has ordered books on Amazon knows users like to see the first few pages. What will they be getting? Jensales is tackling the gargantuan task of getting that accomplished. After all, it cannot just be title pages. A human must look at the digital versions of the manuals and declare what users find worthy, Jensen said.

Jensen also is looking at eBay, which is changing its model to being more of a general commerce site and less of an auction site.

The third area where Jensales has expanded is direct-to-garment printing. He said Jensales can print on anything made of cotton — T-shirts, towels, rags, canvas and so on — almost like how a computer prints to a printer. There is no set-up fee like with silkscreens, and it can print on any color, which often was a limitation of high-heat transfers (iron-ons).

The ink, he said, bonds to the threads so the image stands up well over time — no cracking or peeling. He said Jensales is the only company in the region doing direct-to-garment printing. The closest competitor is in Rochester.

One popular product, Jensen, has been custom rags. Farmers like to carry a rag in their overalls, and Jensales makes them with logos of companies such as International Harvester, Massey-Ferguson, Caterpiller, Allis-Chalmers and John Deere.