A little good news.
Sears – which revolutionized retail not once, but twice – is now struggling to keep its doors open.
One of the most famous parts of the sad saga is what happened to the retailer’s iconic Craftsman line of tools and lawn and garden equipment. While my dad wasn’t much of a handyman himself (sorry, Dad) millions of families across America once filled their garages and workbenches with Craftsman products sold exclusively at their local Sears.
But as Sears struggled to compete in the changing retail landscape, it also sacrificed one of its most essential brands in the process. Craftsman production was sent overseas, and customers noticed a change in quality. Sears sales continued to decline.
Oh, did they ever. I myself watched in dismay as Craftsman went from a solid, cheaper alternative to the undisputed king of professional mechanic’s tools, SnapOn (worshipfully mentioned in this old post), to cranking out nothing but cheap, shoddy junk seemingly overnight. Nowadays, any time I walk through Lowes I always check out the pathetic excuses for tool chests stinking up the Craftsman aisle of the tool section: thin, flimsy steel cabinets; drawers with a clunky pull that stick and rattle; rough edges, haphazard machining—anybody who knows anything about tools can tell at a glance that Here Be Monsters. It’s depressing, is what it is, and just lately I’ve restricted myself to walking quickly past the squalid display shaking my head so as to avoid further needless suffering. But maybe the USS Cratfsman, after listing and taking on water for years, is about to be shored up and restored to something like its former glory.
In 2017, Sears did the unthinkable and sold Craftsman to Stanley Black & Decker.
As it turns out, the folks at Stanley Black & Decker have big plans for the brand, which includes restoring the production of Craftsman tools in the United States, according to CEO James Loree.
“We ended up simply buying the brand because the products had been left to de-volve over time to the point where they weren’t high quality, respectable products they once were,” Loree tells TheStreet. “They had migrated from made in America to virtually everything being made in China and Mexico. They were in sad shape.”
That’s about to change, Loree says. Stanley Black & Decker has redesigned just under 1,500 Craftsman tools, all with American production in mind:
“We have created as a result products that could be made in America at a cost similar to what they would have been if they had been imported from China. One of the strategies behind re-booting Craftsman is to revitalize the products and make as many [of] them in America as possible.”
About 40 percent of Craftsman products will be manufactured in the United States after the initial product relaunch, which is now underway and will heat up this fall at retailers like Lowe’s, Ace Hardware and Amazon (just in time for the holiday shopping season). The goal is for about 70 percent of Craftsman tools to be Made in America in the next few years, Loree adds.
Good on you folks, and I wish you all the luck in the world. Since I ain’t wrenching for a living anymore—although I do still check in at the shop a couple of times a week and try to assist a little when Goose needs some help—I haven’t had either the occasion or the spare cash to drop on tools, although there’s plenty of stuff I need. What hand tools and equipment I’ve bought over the past few years has all been Kobalt stuff, some of which is of surprisingly decent quality, if admittedly not up to the lofty SnapOn standard. Nonetheless, I’d dearly love to see these folks finally get Craftsman’s act tightened up again, and will be keeping an eye out to see if they can pull it off.