Sears, in an effort to expand sales of its Craftsman tool line, will now be making these tools available through select Ace Hardware stores. The goal is to quickly roll out the line to all 4500 locally owned and operated Ace stores. To accomplish this approximately 100 Ace stores will begin a brief phase 1 test in May. Under the first phase of the agreement, qualifying Ace Hardware stores will be able to sell the Craftsman brand including hand tools, portable power tools, compressors, wet/dry vacs and tool storage. Following this, Ace will promote a number of Craftsman products, giving all 4,500 Ace stores the opportunity to offer the Craftsman brand to customers in June. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., Ace currently operates 14 distribution centers in the U.S. and one in Shanghai, China, and its retailers’ stores are located in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Craftsman tools are sold through 2,300+ Sears-branded and affiliated stores in the United States and Canada, which includes approximately 929 full-line and approximately 1,200 specialty stores in the U.S.
“This alliance will reinforce Ace stores as a premium destination for customers shopping for tools and other quality core hardware products. Bringing the nationally-trusted Craftsman brand to the aisles of the most helpful hardware stores in America will benefit both our retailers and customers.”
– Ray Griffith, Ace President and CEO
Sears is positioning this as a strategic move that expands access to Craftsman for existing and new customers. Offering an assortment of Craftsman products more broadly through Ace locations should strengthen the Craftsman brand, but we wonder if Ace will benefit from the same pricing structure as Sears. Currently, Ace Hardware is known for excellent customer service (in 2009, Ace ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Home Improvement Stores for the Third Consecutive Year,” according to J.D. Power and Associates), however it’s prices are well above those of its larger home improvement warehouse competitors. This is most likely and naturally due to economy of scale. One thing is for certain, however – adding Ace Hardware to this list means that Craftsman tools will now available and distributed through three times as many locations – a potential boon for parent company Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Should Ace not compete directly with Sears in pricing on Craftsman tools, this amazing distribution deal could fall on its face. It will be doubtful that they will garner many purchases aside from “emergency” buys when their store happens to be closer to a consumer than the local Sears. In this they would be the ‘Radio Shack’ of the tool industry (read: not so great). Let’s hope the prices are matched and Craftsman tools will be available in a lot more stores this year.
For more information, visit www.acehardware.com and www.craftsman.com.