|Product type||Hand tools, power tools, lawn and garden equipment, work wear|
|Owner||Stanley Black & Decker|
|Introduced||May 20, 1927|
|Related brands||Evolv, Craftsman Professional, Craftsman Industrial, Companion, Dunlap|
Craftsman tools were first sold in 1927. They were not manufactured by Sears, but by various other companies under contract. The tools were sold in Sears, sister retailer Kmart, and several other retailers.
In March 2017, Stanley Black & Decker acquired the Craftsman brand from Sears Holdings, which retained a limited license for Craftsman products. Sears maintains the right to manufacture and sell tools using existing supply channels under the Craftsman name for 15 years after the deal closed.
The Craftsman trademark was registered by Sears on May 20, 1927. Arthur Barrows, head of the company's hardware department, liked the name Craftsman and reportedly bought the rights to use it from the Marion-Craftsman Tool Company for $500. The brand's early customers were mostly farmers. Barrows' successor, Tom Dunlap, upgraded the quality of the tools and added chrome plating to them as America moved into the automobile age.
Sears's tool line, like many of its other product lines, uses a "good, better, best" pricing structure, with the Craftsman brand as the middle tier and Craftsman Professional or Craftsman Industrial as the highest tier. Craftsman Professional and Craftsman Industrial are marketed as being comparable to brands like Cornwell Quality Tools, SK, Snap on, Proto, Mac, and Matco. The standard Craftsman line is marketed as being comparable in quality to other mid-price brands including UltraPro (NAPA), Westward, Gray, Husky, and Kobalt.
The lowest tier was originally branded "Sears". The company also used the "Dunlap" name for its lesser quality tools from the late 1930s until the late 1950s. The Sears tool line was discontinued in the late 1980s and replaced by the "Companion" tool line. The Companion tool line was itself discontinued and replaced by the "Evolv" tool line in 2008, with a focus on homeowners and DIYers. Evolv tools also have a lifetime warranty but require that the customer have the original dated receipt to make a claim.
Craftsman tools are sold in Sears and sister store Kmart, as well as US military Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores, Navy Exchange stores, Summit Racing Equipment, Blain's Farm & Fleet, Menards, W. W. Grainger, Ace Hardware, Montgomery Ward, and Lowe's.
On January 5, 2017, Stanley Black & Decker announced its intent to acquire the Craftsman brand in a deal with a total value of $900 million (with an up-front payment of $525 million, and a payment of $250 million after three years). Sears will hold a royalty-free license to the Craftsman brand for a 15-year period after the completion of the sale, and will receive a royalty on all new Craftsman sales over this period. Afterwards, Sears will pay Stanley Black & Decker a 3% licensing fee. The deal was closed on March 9, 2017. Sears maintains the right to manufacture and sell tools using existing supply channels under the Craftsman name for 15 years.
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Sears has never manufactured Craftsman products itself, instead relying on other manufacturers to make the products for them following Sears designs and specifications, and then applying the Craftsman brand name. Sometimes, the Craftsman branded items include exclusive features or functions that separate them from the manufacturer's own brand or other brands that the manufacturer produces. At other times, Craftsman products are identical to models of other brands with a different name on them.
The hardline mechanic's tools (such as socket wrenches) that make up the core of the brand have been made by a variety of manufacturers over the years, including New Britain, Moore Drop Forging, Stanley, Easco Hand Tools, Danaher Corporation, and most recently Apex Tool Group. Screwdrivers have been manufactured by Pratt-Read and Western Forge, but up until around 2017-2018 were supplied mostly exclusively by Western Forge, who also had supplied pliers and adjustable wrenches. As of 2019, Western Forge no longer supplies Craftsman tools.
Beginning in 2010, hand tools manufactured for Craftsman by Apex Tool Group (formerly known as Danaher) such as ratchets, sockets, and wrenches began to be sourced overseas (mainly in China, although some are produced in Taiwan), while tools produced for Craftsman by Western Forge such as adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers and larger mechanic tool sets remain made in the United States, although as of 2018, most if not all of the production for these products have moved over to Asia. Sears still has an Industrial line which is sold through various authorized distributors. These tools are US made, appearing identical to their previous non-industrial US made counterparts, save for the "Industrial" name stamped on them. They are manufactured by Apex on the US production lines that previously produced the US made standard Craftsman product before production switched overseas to Asia.
Many Craftsman portable power tools have been manufactured by Techtronic Industries. Previously, these products were produced by the Diehl Motor Company (a one time division of Singer) and Ryobi. Both Singer and Ryobi have been condensed under the Techtronic company umbrella. Sears hand power tools have also been produced by DeWalt. Some, such as the corded and cordless drills, were indistinguishable, other than the color and decal labels. Many Craftsman bench and stationary power tools have been manufactured by Emerson Electric Company under the "113" model prefix (previously under the "103" model prefix which was King-Seeley, but Emerson bought them out in the 1960s) and DeWalt. Air compressors were manufactured by DeVilbiss Air Power (part of Dewalt), and formerly by Campbell Hausfeld.
Tool storage has typically been manufactured by Waterloo Industries ("706" model prefix), while Craftsman-branded garage door openers are manufactured by The Chamberlain Group ("139" model prefix). Hammers have been produced by Vaughan-Bushnell (coded "M" on the tool). Many of the automotive specialty tools such as feeler gauges and gap gauges have been made by A&E Tool Company of Racine, Wisconsin (these tools will have an "S" logo in a circle). Ullman Devices of Ridgefield, Connecticut makes many of the magnetic pick up tools, picks, and inspection mirrors for Sears.
Some tools have codes on them that correspond to the manufacturer that produced the product for Sears (see Alloy Artifacts website reference below). For example, on hand tools, codes on them will indicate who made them for Sears. For example, Western Forge sourced tools will have a "WF" stamped on the tool. Tools produced by Moore Drop Forge will have a "V" on them, tools from Pratt-Reed will have "PR" on them, Easco will have an "E" or "EE", and later Danaher made tools (US made) will have a "VV" or a "VɅ" (inverted second "V"). Pliers have been sourced by a few vendors including the aforementioned Western Forge "WF" tools and Wilde Industries which have a "P" on the tool. Some sockets (notably the 3/4 drive US made units) were made by S-K (coded "X" on the tool). Many major Sears Craftsman items as noted above also have a vendor prefix, which is typically the first three digits before the period or dash in the model number. These first three digits correspond to the vendor code, or the actual manufacturer contracted to make the product for Sears.
Consumers may find different versions of Craftsman products at the different outlets that sell them because after the sale of Craftsman to SBD, the entities are free to source Craftsman from the suppliers of their own choosing. For example, a Craftsman screwdriver sold at Sears is typically sourced from a vendor in China, an equivalent model at Lowes sourced from a supplier in Taiwan, and one sold at Ace may still be the original Western Forge USA made product that was sold by Sears for many years prior to the sale of Craftsman to SBD. However, consumers should be able to exchange any version of the Craftsman product at any of the outlets since SBD has stated that they will honor all previous Craftsman warranties.
Quality and reputation
In 2007, a Harris Interactive poll gave Craftsman the highest score for both "Brand Expectations" and "Trust". In 2009, the readers of Popular Mechanics named Craftsman their favorite brand of hand tools in their Reader's Choice Awards. Craftsman is the official tool brand of NASCAR and the DIY Network.
Most Craftsman hand tools are advertised as having an unlimited lifetime warranty. This lifetime warranty program was instituted by Sears when they began selling the Craftsman line in 1927. This warranty program requires no receipt or dated proof of purchase. If the owner takes the item into a local retail store, it may be replaced or repaired free of charge.
The full text of the warranty is as follows:
Sears has reduced the warranty in effect on many Craftsman non-powered lawn and garden products including rakes, shovels, clippers, brooms, trowels, pruners, hoses, sprinklers, hose nozzles, and other small gardening hand tools. Previously it was a lifetime warranty which on August 2, 2012, was reduced to 25 years with receipt required. The lifetime warranty does not include precision hand tools, such as calipers and torque wrenches.
Many consumers have also been reporting problems when attempting to obtain warranty repair or replacement on tools that are covered by the full lifetime warranty. Sears' official position is that the warranty should be honored, and much of the problem may lie with individual sales associates. In some cases Sears no longer sells particular Craftsman tools (tape measures, and wood clamps are two examples), making it impossible to replace a tool sold with a lifetime warranty with a similar Craftsman tool that will continue the warranty.
Some Sears stores limit the number of hand tools that can be exchanged per day, in an effort to reduce the abuse of the lifetime warranty. Stanley Black & Decker has stated that all previous warranties on Craftsman products will be honored after the purchase of Craftsman in 2017. Some of the newer packaging (as of 2018 onward) on some Craftsman products does indicate that there may be a limit on returning warranty tools. As of February 2019, the "non-Sears" Craftsman does not have "open stock" in the stores as Sears does to replace individual items from a set that may require warranty. Stanley Black and Decker has indicated that they are working on introducing more individual tools to stores.
Power tools have a one-year warranty.
Craftsman tools came under fire in 2004 in a lawsuit accusing Sears of false advertising and consumer fraud for questionable use of the slogan "Made in the USA".
On March 6, 2019, Sears was sued by Stanley Black & Decker, which accused it of breach of contract and trademark infringement over its new line of professional-grade mechanics tools under the Craftsman Ultimate Collection brand. According to the complaint, Sears breached the license agreement by launching its new tool line and touting its stores as "the real home of the broadest assortment of Craftsman".
From 1995 to 2008, Craftsman sponsored the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, a deal which began with the inception of the Truck Series. After the 2008 season, Craftsman withdrew from sponsoring the series and was replaced by Camping World. In 2016, Craftsman returned to motorsports sponsorship, serving as the title name for the World of Outlaws, renaming the Sprint Car Series and Late Model Series to the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series and World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series, respectively.
The main licensees for Craftsman in the UK were Focus DIY (beginning in 2001) and B&Q (beginning in 1993). The main licensees for Craftsman in the rest of Europe were Bosch, and selling product at retailers and Amazon.
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