Craftsman Launches Industrial Line

After 80 years in the DIY realm, this long-standing brand breaks into a new market. In early March, 80-year hand tool veteran Craftsman announced a foray into the industrial marketplace with Craftsman Industrial, a new line of mechanic hand tools available for the heavy-duty needs of industrial and maintenance professionals.

After 80 years in the DIY realm, this long-standing brand breaks into a new market.

In early March, 80-year hand tool veteran Craftsman announced a foray into the industrial marketplace with Craftsman Industrial, a new line of mechanic hand tools available for the heavy-duty needs of industrial and maintenance professionals. Craftsman Industrial is made in the USA and was developed with end-user insights to meet or exceed the standards of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
The new Craftsman Industrial offers:
•  A broad assortment of mechanic hand tools.
•  The Craftsman Lifetime Hand Tool Warranty.
•  Exclusive availability for customers in the industrial, commercial and manufacturing; government and military; automotive, transportation and fleet maintenance; technical education and construction industries.

Kris Malkoski

Industrial Distribution sat down with Kris Malkoski, VP & GM of Craftsman Industrial, and Michael Roach, VP brand channel sales, to discuss what motivated the new launch, and where the brand is headed.

ID: Craftsman has obviously been around for a long time. What motivated this venture into the industrial marketplace after so many years?

KM: Craftsman has been around since 1927 and we’ve had a very strong reputation for unsurpassed quality and durability. All of our research shows that the brand most used by professionals happens to be Craftsman. But the assortment that we were selling at traditional retailers really catered to the DIY audience. We realized that there was an opportunity to create an assortment of tools that could handle the tough jobs that professionals meet every day, whether it’s a bolt on a bridge or some other project that requires size and exceptional durability.

ID: With the market being as it is, were you at all reticent about coming out with a new line when many manufacturers and distributors are still dealing with a bit of a cash crunch?

MR: I think the macro economic picture has changed dramatically over the course of the past year. Working with our industrial distribution partners, they’re seeing some good aspects in manufacturing. The Big 3 has driven a lot more manufacturing the last couple of months and the overall climate is getting better month by month. We’re seeing more growth in the manufacturing aspect, but also in the general marketplace for tools. We’re seeing a strong rebound from the lows of 2009 as distributors re-stock, and there is more demand out in the field.

ID: Are you expecting the brand strength in DIY to be a potential limitation based on end-user perception?

Michael Roach

KM: We are not. We extensively researched this opportunity before we went into the marketplace. We look at what a pro recommends, and Craftsman is the most preferred and recommended brand, to any tool that’s out there. When we got this research back last year, we said ‘Why aren’t we in the professional segment with this kind of a reputation?’ That was the reason for coming out with Craftsman Industrial.

MR: We have been shipping the product for the last 60 to 90 days… we’re going to be at the ISA show in a big way, really talking about this segment and category for us. We’ll be announcing new items and new models at ISA. We’ve been out working with our industrial distribution partners, and we’re actively engaged right now in launching this product.

ID: What in your line do you expect to be the most popular with your industrial customers? What should they be looking for?

MR: I think when people think of Craftsman, they think of the core product, which is the Mechanics hand tools, the wrenches, sockets, and the sets and value that we offer there. That’s our core business and that’s what people recognize and know us for. That’s what we’re going to focus on in this initial round of launches. We’re going to have probably over a 1,000 items—both in individual open stock, and also in sets—by mid-summer, available within the Craftsman Industrial portfolio, devoted to the MRO network.

KM: We have very strict standards. We set all of our expectations to meet or exceed ANSI requirements and also American Society of Mechanical Engineer standards. In Hoffman Estates, IL, we have a lab that is over 15,000 square feet, where we rigorously test all of these tools to make sure they perform at the top of their game for the applications that they’ll be used for.

ID: In the last 60 to 90 days that you’ve been shipping, have you gotten any feedback?

MR: Very strong feedback. It’s been very well-received by the channel and end-users. They’re very interested in the product and how it can work with them. Again, I think it goes back to the value proposition of Craftsman that we offer, and that people definitely recognize us for high quality and very reasonable price point on the product. The name alone brings substantial credibility to the product.

ID: Are you planning to use this feedback to help shape your line?

MR: It’s a constant feedback loop. We look at the market and what we’re able to put out there right now… and then we’ll have somebody come back and say ‘I need this drive size and this ratcheting wrench configuration.’ It’s a constant process that we go through in terms of the product innovation and roll-out, to always ensure that we have the right product for the marketplace.

KM: This is probably a driver for a professional’s love for Craftsman, but we’ve always had the lifetime hand tool warranty, so the tool is required to last for the life of the user, and if it doesn’t, you can return it and get a new tool free. When we were talking with professionals as we were developing the marketing materials they said it was that, plus the fact that these hand tools were produced in the U.S.A. were strong drivers for their desire to purchase a Craftsman Industrial tool.

And from our consumer research: We had a list of about 30 attributes and we were trying to understand what really drove a professional to be interested in a specific tool. They said that they were looking for these top drivers: they wanted a tool with a history of providing quality tools, they wanted value for the money, they wanted an excellent warranty, something that was long-lasting and durable, a reputation for being trustworthy, and a tool that was designed with their needs in mind. We looked at that and said ‘Wow! With Craftsman’s heritage and value, along with it’s warranty, we have to be (in this market).’

Craftsman Industrial officially became an ISA (Industrial Supply Association) member in the 4th quarter of 2010. The 2011 ISA Product Show & Conference will run May 14-17 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare and Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Chicago.