|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|
As with all Sears products, Craftsman tools were not manufactured by Sears during that company's ownership, but made under contract by various other companies. They were first sold in 1927 through the Sears catalog and in Sears retail stores. After the Sears-Kmart merger, the tools were also for sale in Kmart stores and through several other retailers.
In March 2017, Stanley Black & Decker acquired the Craftsman brand from Sears Holdings, which retained a limited license for Craftsman products.
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.
Lowe's announced in October of 2017 that it would start carrying Craftsman tools. This was the first new distribution announcement made after Stanley Black & Decker closed the Craftsman deal. However, at the time, Lowe's stated that Craftsman products wouldn't start arriving in its stores and online until the second half of 2018.
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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 until around 2017-2018 were supplied mostly 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 has moved 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 who acquired the prior supplier - Diehl Motor Company (a one time division of Singer) and Ryobi. Sears hand power tools have also been produced by DeWalt under the "900" model prefix. Some, such as the corded and cordless drills, were indistinguishable, other than the color and decal labels. Many Craftsman bench and stationary power tools were 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 (formerly part of Dewalt. DeVilbiss is now owned by MAT Holdings who made compressors for Sears under the "921" model prefix), and formerly by Campbell Hausfeld under the "106" model prefix.
Tool storage has typically been manufactured by Waterloo Industries ("706" model prefix), however, as of 2020, Waterloo no longer manufactures tool storage for the Sears line of Craftsman. It is now supplied under the "714" model prefix by Montezuma Tool Storage, but the Craftsman tool storage sold in Lowes is still Waterloo made. The 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/Easco (1968 and after) will have a "V" on them, later tools by Easco will have "VV" or "G", tools from Pratt-Reed will have "PR" on them, Stanley/National Hand Tool will have an "E" or "EE", and later Danaher made tools (US made) will have a "VV" (carried over from Easco in 1990) or a "VɅ" (inverted second "V"), upside down "G", GK, G1, G2, and G2D . 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 currently 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.
Sears has sold outdoor equipment under the Craftsman name for many years. Sears had several suppliers of this equipment such as Roper, David Bradley, Lawn-Boy, American Yard Products, and Electrolux.
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.
Customers are able to exchange any version of the Sears Craftsman product at the stores that sell Sears Craftsman products such as Sears, Kmart, Ace, etc. Stores such as Lowes that sell Stanley Black & Decker Craftsman products will only exchange replacement items at Stanley Craftsman supplied stores. For example, you cannot replace a broken Sears ratchet at Lowe's.
In 1963, Sears employee Peter M. Roberts developed a quick release feature for socket wrenches. The feature allowed a person using such a ratchet to remove the socket from the wrench with one hand, freeing the second hand from grabbing the socket while the other hand held the ratchet.
Roberts developed a prototype and applied for a patent in 1964. While the patent was pending he approached Sears and introduced the idea to them. Sears, who sold millions of sockets every year, saw the potential in the invention and asked for the prototype so it could be tested. After testing revealed the quick release would not weaken the ratchet, Sears began market testing the new ratchet and received favorable feedback. Sears then incorporated the quick release into a new line of ratchets, projecting sales of up to 750,000 units in the first year alone.
In January, 1965, Roberts received a phone call from a Sears attorney asking for the name of Roberts' patent lawyer. Without Roberts' knowledge Sears hired the patent lawyer, Charles Fay, and Fay ended up representing both Roberts and Sears in regards to the patent. Around this time, Roberts' patent had been approved, but Fay did not reveal this to Roberts. Negotiations for use of the quick release commenced, with Roberts being told that the quick release wasn't new and that any patent issued would be limited. Sears' lawyers also said that because of the cost (44 cents per wrench) of adding the quick release to the wrenches, a license was worth only $10,000. What Sears didn't tell Roberts was that they planned on making 50,000 of the new wrenches per week. Roberts sued Sears in 1969 after seeing his quick release on a wrench prominently displayed in a Sears catalog, but it wouldn't be until 1989 that the case was finally settled. Neither side revealed the amount of the settlement.
In August 2002, Sears sued Emerson for using Sears-owned manufacturing equipment to create power tools for Home Depot. Upon the expiration of Emerson's 30-year contract to make Craftsman tools Emerson was required to return the Sears-owned equipment but instead kept the equipment, claiming it to be obsolete and of little value. Emerson denied the allegations when the suit was filed, but paid Sears $10.8 million and returned all the equipment, while admitting no wrongdoing.
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". Sears lost but owed $0 as the court found Sears liable for no damage from the mislabeling.
In 2012 Sears was sued by LoggerHead Tools, makers of the Bionic Wrench, after Sears released a competing product, the MaxAccess. Sears had sold the Bionic Wrench in its stores, but decided to not talk to LoggerHead about licensing the patent. Instead, Sears had their tool supplier Apex Tools create the MaxAccess wrench under the Craftsman name, claiming that the MaxAccess was designed not to infringe on the Bionic Wrench patent. Other than coloring the only substantial difference between the two wrenches was that the Bionic Wrench had the head at a 45-degree angle while the MaxAccess head was straight. LoggerHead was subsequently awarded $6 million in damages, only for the verdict to be set aside due to judicial error in interpreting the LoggerHead patent.
In April 2017, Sears sued Western Forge- its former supplier of hand tools such as pliers and screwdrivers for abruptly ending the contract to supply these tools. Western Forge violated the contract demanding more money up front with the questionable stability with Sears' financial issues. Sears failure to agree to this terms, the supplier abruptly finished producing the current order and not taking new orders from Sears.
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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