In January 2017, Sears Holdings sold the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker. Over the past 18 months, Craftsman has reorganized its management team and set to work on launching some 1,200 new products this summer and into 2019. Last week, the brand held a press event to share a sneak peek of its new product lineup in categories that included automotive tools, handheld corded and cordless power tools, outdoor power equipment, accessories and metal cabinets and shop storage, among others. We sat down with Jeff Doehne, Craftsman’s general manager, at the event to learn more about how the transition has gone and where he sees the brand headed strategically in the years to come. Doehne has been with Stanley Black & Decker for 12 years and formerly was its vice president of sales for Lowe’s.
Why was Craftsman purchased by Stanley Black & Decker (SB&D)?
What we saw through our research was, in both perception and aspiration to buy the brand, people covet Craftsman products, and everybody has a Craftsman story! So we knew the brand was extremely powerful. The challenge for Craftsman over the past number of years has not been brand recognition — it’s been lack of broader availability. So, when Sears decided to shop Craftsman around, we saw it as a great opportunity for us to really take something that has such great history as an iconic brand — especially here in the U.S. — and capitalize on bringing that to life with new retail partners and a more meaningful road map of product development that we felt could truly make Craftsman even stronger than what it has been for the past 90 years.
SB&D and Craftsman share a long heritage in manufacturing hand tools and accessories. How are the two brands benefiting one another?
Craftsman’s legacy of quality and value as an iconic brand is a great fit for our overall brand strategy (at SB&D), because that’s what we want to deliver: really good quality tools at an attainable value to the end user. On the SB&D side, we’re able to capitalize on our 175-year pedigree of product history, engineering and innovations and bring that to Craftsman on this next generation of tools. What Craftsman gives us in return is the ability to expand into categories like gas-powered outdoor equipment that we haven’t participated in before. That’s a huge opportunity for us.
Surely the past 18 months have been demanding, in terms of Craftsman’s transition to SB&D and preparing to launch some 1,200 new products. How has the process gone, and why was Craftsman ready to take on a challenge of this magnitude?
SB&D invested a lot into Craftsman from the get-go — $900 million — and moved quickly into building out a team to help us bring the brand to life for our retail partners. We knew that we could develop the right product strategy and bring products to market quickly in 2018. We think we’ve hit the nail on the head here by aligning strategically with Lowe’s, Ace and Amazon. It’s taken a lot of work from a great team, but we couldn’t be more excited about where we’re at right now and where we’re headed.
Please speak to Craftsman’s “Made in America” commitment. How do you address Craftsman customers who have difficulty accepting that while some products are made in America, they may contain materials and components that are sourced globally?
Craftsman has a deeply rooted history of making tools here in the U.S. We’re dedicated to continuing that tradition, and it’s a big commitment at SB&D, too. So, whether it’s manufacturing Craftsman tape measures in New Britain, Connecticut, metal storage out of Sedalia, Missouri, portable plastic storage or knives and blades in Cheraw, South Carolina, or the new cordless, brushless technology that we’re bringing to life in Charlotte, North Carolina, that’s just the start of the journey. We believe that we can manufacture here in the U.S. while meeting our goal of delivering great quality at the right value to Craftsman end users.
We source raw materials globally for two reasons: when those products are not available here in the U.S. or when it’s not really viable for us to purchase that material here for quality or cost limitations. If we’re building products in the U.S., we want to use raw materials that are made here, too. However, sometimes we have to look externally if, for instance, the certain steel that we need for our tape measures isn’t available or cost-effective to obtain here.
How many of the new 1,200 products are available at Craftsman retailers now? How long do you anticipate it will take to bring all 1,200 products to stores?
About 30 items in our Craftsman “next generation” line are currently available at Lowe’s and Ace stores. In the September/October timeframe, Lowe’s will be completely resetting about 250 stores to carry all 1,200 new Craftsman products. More products will be coming to market from our key retail partners in November/December, including Amazon, for a heavy holiday promotion.
Lowe’s will begin to reset all of its 1,700 stores next year for all of the new Craftsman tools. About 2,800 Ace outlets have been carrying Craftsman products since around 2010, and they’re going to continue to carry Craftsman, too. We’re working with Ace right now to transition them into the “new” Craftsman line, with products such as gunmetal chrome (mechanic’s tools) and metal storage.
Will Craftsman products continue to be sold through Sears stores for the foreseeable future?
Sears Holdings, under the 2017 purchase agreement, will continue to sell Craftsman products in the versions they have today in their stores. What (SB&D/Craftsman) is really focused on is the “next generation” of Craftsman that we will be launching outside of Sears Holdings outlets, through Ace, Amazon and Lowe’s.
Will the “new” Craftsman continue to honor lifetime warranties on Craftsman tools purchased at Sears stores prior to 2017? For instance, can an older, damaged Craftsman socket or screwdriver be replaced at Lowe’s and Ace? Or must the customer return it to a Sears store instead?
We recognize how important the warranty is to the Craftsman customer, and we are committed to honoring all past Craftsman warranties. For instance, Lowe’s will honor all valid lifetime warranty returns regardless of where the Craftsman product was purchased, so long as that Lowe’s location has an equivalent Craftsman replacement to offer. Otherwise, customers can always call the Craftsman Customer Care line at 888-331-4659 and a Craftsman associate will be ready to help.
Is the Craftsman brand stronger now than it was prior to 2017?
We believe it is! Craftsman has always been a coveted brand, and with our new strategic retail partnerships and outlets, our customers will be able to buy Craftsman tools more easily. With Stanley Black & Decker’s manufacturing expertise, we’re bringing a robust road map for Craftsman to continue making quality tools at the right value that offer features users really want. That’s going to make Craftsman even stronger for the next 90 years.
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