When Stanley Black & Decker bought the Craftsman brand from Sears Holdings last year, the deal let both companies continue making and selling products under the Craftsman label. Sears will sell the tools at its stores, while Stanley sells at outlets like Lowe’s and Ace Hardware.
Plenty of consumers know Sears’ iconic Craftsman tool brand. Now they’ll have to get to know its doppelgänger.
When Stanley Black & Decker bought the Craftsman brand from Sears Holdings last year, the deal — valued at $900 million — let both companies continue making and selling products under the Craftsman label.
That means a Craftsman cordless power drill or red metal toolbox could come from either Sears or Stanley, depending on where it’s purchased. Consumers will continue to see Sears’ version of Craftsman in the retailer’s Sears and Kmart stores, as well as Sears Hometown and Outlet. Elsewhere, they will begin to see Stanley’s take on the brand.
Last week, Stanley introduced 1,200 Craftsman products, including automotive tools, power drills, lawn equipment and storage boxes, which will begin arriving at Lowe’s and Ace Hardware stores in September. Metal storage products will go on sale on Amazon later this year, with more added in 2019. Certain items, including toolboxes and mechanic’s tools, have been in Lowe’s stores since April, Stanley said.
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Competing versions of a brand sounds like a recipe for customer confusion, but Stanley spokesman Tim Perra said the company isn’t concerned.
Both companies have agreed to a set of brand standards and guidelines, Sears spokesman Larry Costello said.
“Regardless of where the product was purchased, customers can expect that these tools meet the highest performance standards,” Costello said.
Only about 10 percent of Craftsman products were sold outside Sears when the companies announced the deal last year, according to Stanley. Stanley is hoping to shift that balance as it brings its products to new retailers.
Sears acknowledged Stanley’s moves last week with a blog post defending its hold on the brand it launched 91 years ago. Tom Park, president of the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands at Sears, listed industry awards Craftsman won under Sears’ ownership and noted the retailer still has the biggest assortment of Craftsman products of any U.S. retailer.
Sears will benefit from Craftsman tools sold by Stanley, which will pay royalties for 15 years, Park wrote.
“But make no mistake, we’ve been the home of what is arguably America’s most iconic tool brand and we’re so proud to continue to offer Craftsman products right here at Sears and Kmart,” he wrote.
The Craftsman sale brought an immediate cash infusion for Sears, which has sold assets to fund its turnaround attempt after seven years of red ink. The agreement called for a $525 million payment when the deal closed and an additional $250 million three years later. But Sears, thanks to the royalty payments, also stands to benefit from the brand’s growth outside its stores.
About six months before inking the deal with Stanley, Sears announced it was looking for ways to wring more cash from its better-known brands — including Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard — by expanding their reach outside its stores. Since then Sears also began selling DieHard auto products and Kenmore appliances on Amazon.
Last week the retailer received a $400 million offer for the Kenmore brand from the hedge fund run by Sears CEO Edward Lampert. In a letter, Lampert’s ESL Investments said the sale of Kenmore and a piece of Sears’ home-services division would aid the company’s finances and “allow these businesses to unlock their considerable potential by further expanding their presence in the marketplace.”
In addition to the opportunity to expand Craftsman’s reach, Stanley saw an opportunity to update the brand’s look and feel, though the red color scheme will remain, Stanley’s Perra said.
The 1,200 products Stanley announced last week are the kinds of tools Craftsman already made but “completely redesigned,” he said. A line of power drills, for instance, has a new battery system and ergonomic design.
Stanley also wanted to make more Craftsman products in the U.S., though it wasn’t a response to the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policies or an effort to avoid tariffs, Perra said.
“We believe in having the ability to make products in the countries where we sell them in a competitive way,” he said.
Stanley’s Craftsman products or components for them are made at 20 U.S. plants, including one in Connecticut that produces tape measures. Perra couldn’t immediately say what share of Craftsman products are U.S.-made, and they include materials imported from around the world.
Sears also declined to share specifics of where its Craftsman products are made.
“To meet our exacting standards for quality and performance, we leverage relationships with the largest manufacturers in the industry, both domestically and globally,” Costello said.