Lowe’s plans to begin selling Craftsman tools next year, the home improvement retailer said Tuesday, marking a significant departure of the brand from its Sears home base. The Craftsman brand will roll out at all Lowe’s stores in the U.S., Canada and online beginning the second half of 2018, a Lowe’s spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email.
It’s not the first time that Craftsman has been sold outside of Sears and Kmart stores. The brand, which Black & Decker bought from Sears this year, is available at Ace Hardware, Lowe’s-owned Orchard Supply and other retailers as well, and that will continue, according to Lowe's. But the move could deliver Lowe’s an advantage over big box rival The Home Depot and further erodes one of Sears’ few remaining market strengths.
Sears sold its iconic tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker early this year for $900 million. This week, Sears parent Sears Holdings and Whirlpool announced that they are ending their 100-plus-year partnership selling the appliance manufacturer’s top brands.
Craftsman is among the best known American brands ever. Its trademark was first registered by Sears in 1927 and remains a favorite among weekend tinkerers and serious grease monkeys alike.
Although the brand has remained one of Sears’ best-selling categories, sales have inevitably slipped as the department store retailer loses customer traffic and closes stores.
Sears has also lost ground with its other brands. Kenmore’s market share has slipped precipitously from 40% some 20 years ago to around 12% today, as its customer base ages and younger generations overlook that brand. Sears is hoping it can reinvigorate Kenmore sales by selling the appliances through Amazon and connecting them to the e-commerce giant’s Alexa voice platform. Some analysts, though, think the partnership with Amazon is too modest to make much difference for the diminished Kenmore brand.
Compounding the retailer's appliance woes, Whirlpool made it more difficult for Sears to recover lost market share in the appliance market by pulling back from Sears.
Craftsman's entry into Lowe's was a foreseeable result of Sears' sale of the brand. Many retail observers were dismayed that Sears would sell the brand at all and cede control of the tools, which remain a fixture in the U.S.
W. Frank Dell II, President, Dellmart & Company, for example, wrote at the time of the sale: "Sears will be a loser in this deal and consumers will be the winner. Now consumers will not have to go to a Sears store to buy Craftsman tools. For me, there has been a Sears store around for years, yet the chain continues its death march. This sale just gives customers another reason not to shop at Sears."
Having Lowe's as a distribution channel, in addition to being an advantage over rival Home Depot, will likely further erode Sears' standing among tool buyers. As of July, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Sears account for about 58% of all appliance sales. However, Best Buy has been closing in on Sears' 13% market share and has recently threatened to take the No. 3 spot from Sears.