BIG news here – Lowe’s has all but ditched Southwire Tools in 2021, replacing the brands’ electrical tools with offerings from Ideal, Kobalt, and Fluke.
If I recall correctly, there were some Greenlee and Ideal tools before, but now there are a whole lot of Ideal tools, and very few remaining Southwire Tool products.
Maybe this is why you can now buy Southwire Tools from Home Depot’s website?
The testing equipment is now all Ideal, Kobalt, and… Fluke? Is that a new development too?
Looking at the top right-hand corner, I see Fluke multimeter sales cards. I don’t recall ever seeing Fluke test equipment at Lowe’s before.
New Ideal screwdrivers? Made in USA. But, they’re also priced accordingly. $9 to $13 seems a bit steep, but not inappropriately so.
At the time of this posting, Klein’s standard cushion-grip USA-made Phillips #2 screwdriver is $9.49 via Amazon.
The Ideal wire strippers are also made in the USA, except for one of the styles.
I don’t remember what Ideal hand tool packaging used to look like, but these definitely impart an impactful impression.
Update: Looking back at older images, Ideal’s packaging didn’t change much, but the tools weren’t at eye-level as they are here, and they were surrounded in a sea of Southwire red, blue, and brown.
Here’s what the Southwire-dominant hand tool section looked like about a year ago.
The same goes for the standard Ideal pliers styles – made in USA.
There’s a broad electrical tester selection as well. Quite frankly, I don’t remember Lowe’s electrical hand tool and tester equipment section ever being this nicely laid out.
There are still some big gaps in the hand tool display. Some of the labels were for Ideal tools, and surprisingly, others were for Kobalt electrical hand tools.
This is a huge change to Lowe’s electrical hand tools section, their biggest refresh in quite a few years.
Lowe’s dropped Channellock and Knipex electrical hand tools back in 2013, and replaced all of those SKUs with new Southwire Tools products. Looking back at the 7-1/2 years since then, Lowe’s made a couple of small product changes over the years, such as when select Southwire introduced a small selection of USA-made tools.
I wonder – if this arrangement happened sooner, might there have been a chance to save Western Forge from closing? Western Forge, also an Ideal Industries brand, closed in early 2020.
Some of you mentioned changes at your Lowe’s stores, but this is the first I’ve seen the new electrical hand tool section at my closest store. As you can tell from the first image, they’re still working to stock the entire display.
I posted about the new Kobalt electrical testers the other day, here.
You know what would be nice? If brands such as Ideal Industries, Kobalt Tools, and Lowe’s would share more news about what they’re doing. Oh, I’m sorry, Kobalt Tools “tweeted” about their new electrical testers. Maybe there was a “Tik Tok” too.
Lowe’s and Home Depot had back to back press releases as they played tug of war with the EGO brand. But big changeups like this without so much as a peep? Tsk tsk.
I don’t know about you, but I’d think that Lowe’s would want to draw some attention to their efforts here. Right?
Rumor has it that one or two Knipex tools will also be joining Lowe’s electrical hand tools display, but I haven’t seen anything official about this yet. Given the premium pricing, I wouldn’t expect to see very many Knipex tools at Lowe’s.
- Home Depot Discontinues EGO Cordless Outdoor Power Tools
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- Understanding the Home Depot vs. Lowe’s EGO Cordless Power Tools Partnership Swap
Now, here’s the big question:
You need wire strippers, cushion-grip screwdrivers, lineman’s pliers, a GFCI outlet tester, voltage tester, and a digital multimeter, and you want them quick.
A) Go to Lowe’s and buy some of these new tools?
B) Go to Home Depot instead and buy Klein, Milwaukee?
C) Harbor Freight for the win (yeah, right… right?)
D) Shop Amazon from your phone?
And another question – will anyone miss the Southwire tool and test equipment offerings?
Some of these Ideal USA-made tools are quite pricey, but the same could be said about Klein at Home Depot, online, and supply houses.
What do you think about these changes? Has it happened at your Lowe’s store yet?
I posted on this yesterday. My local Lowes has a bunch of different Fluke equipment. They have the gray market 107, the 110, 115, and there’s even a “get this at the service desk” card for what looked to be an 87 V. They’ve also got a few of the different clamp meters and voltage testers.
The most interesting one to me is the 107 since it has been a gray market Fluke meter that they supposedly won’t warranty in the US. I bought one last week when I saw it for sale at Lowes. The packaging is different than the 107 I bought off from Amazon two years ago. I’m almost thinking Fluke is now making a US market 107 to break into the $100 meter market.
I’ve got a Fluke 101 and it’s a great little meter that actually fits in a tool pouch . My local Lowe’s has always carried the 117 and the 323, which are pretty much the two best meters to carry for residential electrical work.
I’ve never bought Southwire electrical tools but have noticed some of them on the shelves at my local Menards next to Ideal offerings starting last year. Now I’m wondering if Menards is dropping Ideal for Southwire or they will continue to share space.
Menards already dropped Ideal for Southwire. And no surprise that Lowes dropped Southwire for Ideal. This is the little shuffle the big box stores do for whatever reason.
Eons ago – the first sort of shuffle like this that I noticed was Emerson being dropped by Sears as the OEM for their Craftsman brand table saws, radial arm saws , drill presses and vacuums> Back then Sears threw Emerson over for (What I suspect they thought were higher profit margin/lower priced Taiwanese manufacturers.) Emerson, not wanting to shut down their machine tool buisiness, then cut a deal with the up and coming Home Depot.
I suspect that when Lowes decided to part ways with Southwire – in favor of Ideal – then Menards got involved – or vice versa. Hrad to know (looking in from outside) who initiated the swap around. It could have been any of the 4 companies.
I can scratch my head at the wonderful world of refreshes and paying for shelf space. But I guess the flipside to that is my local mom n pop tool stores that (due to minimum order quantity requirements) order a pallet or two of a new brand and then never replenish what they sell out of. 😬
Mike (the other one)
Personally, I’m glad to see this change. I was never super-impressed with Southwire hand tools. I always wanted to see more Ideal tools, since they are a worthy competitor to Klein, and have a wide range of USA-made products.
My Lowe’s had some Knipex cobras as of last week.
Knipex annunced via IG, their products will now be carried at Lowes.
If it’s standard US Knipex pricing I’ll continue ordering my Knipex only via sales or when I find them cheaper from over seas.
Do you live close to a Menards? I’ve gotten some killer deals on Knipex from them. Granted, they have a limited selection. but, nice to be able to drive a few minutes to pick something up. Just got a 7” pliers-wrench a couple weeks ago when they were doing 15% off anything that fits in a paper bag. Their price was already good… at least compared to some other retailers.
I saw a pretty significant number of knipex pliers, including cobra and pliers wrenches at our local Menards today. I have never seen these there is the past. The pricing looked a bit better than that on amazon, and significantly lower than kctool.
I am a commercial electrician and have never been impressed with Southwires hand tools or meters. I do use their wire however…the SIMPUL reels are useful. Honestly I don’t shop at Lowe’s for tools anyway…I used to back in the day when they carried decent stuff…I see they are going back to Knipex and more Ideal products which is nice. At one time they carried Klein too, not that Klein is all that. They have always sold a few Fluke products but are higher than other places.
Good riddance. Too bad their tools are still around elsewhere. They have a few made in USA tools that are decent but there is pretty much a better option from other companies for most of their tools at similar prices.
I love those screwdrivers, prefer them over klein due to the tackier handle.
Perhaps I’m confused, but I thought Ideal went the way of the Dodo when Western Forge closed and the manufacturing equipment was sold at auction? How is it items such as their USA pliers are now showing up at Lowe’s? New old stock? I missed something along the line.
Ideal has several tool brands, with Western Forge only being one of them.
They try to differentiate by describing the parent company as Ideal Industries and the Ideal supplier and hand tool brand as Ideal Electric. This Ideal is the same that makes wire nuts and other electrical components.
I don’t think any of these tools were made by Western Forge. Even if they were, there are other Ideal factories that could have taken up the production.
I had bought up the WF stuff I liked branded under Ideal/SK after noticing certain signs that their was a downtime at minimum. I literally bought a 2 piece SK slip joint set that had one WF and one Wilde in it just before I noticed stock was gone and not reappearing for models that weren’t already outsourced from proamerica and etc.
Alas, I stopped by Lowes (first time in a while) after reading this and they have a TON of the WF/Craftsman pliers in Ideal blue. Thank goodness. The stores seem to be carrying a “comfort grip” style slip on handle version of the Linesmans and not the dipped one, unfortunately, but they can be ordered. They are on par (or better than based on opinion) with Klein and Knipex. Other Linesman (Snapon included), not so much. They also have a bajillion styles of dikes for some reason. Almost picked up the needle nose but I prefer diamond style teeth ala Klein and Snap-On.
Basically, they have the dies, the trademarks and the patents, so it appears they’re continuing production.
The “better” Ames test equipment at Harbor Freight works perfectly fine and probably come from the same place in China as most of the other brands. That being said if I was spending money I’d stick with Klein.
The weirdest thing is there was no real purge of Southwire stuff at Lowes like they usually do when they start dumping brands. I saw a few things on clearance, but that was it.
Hilario lincoln Hernandez
I like the south wire stuff. I’ve been switching over from klein slowly. Ideals stuff is ok too. So no biggie. But now on california, where do I get my south wire fix?
Mike (the other one)
I would never trust my life to anything from HF.
I rarely shop at lowes since I moved. The Home Depot is about 5 blocks away. Hf and Lowe’s are about a 10-12 minute drive and although not far and right near each other there’s a menards about 5 minutes away and little traffic. I prefer klein myself but i entertain other brands
“B”, I started as a helper back in the day with Klein, so it’s a nostalgia thing for me 😀
Third generation electrical contractor, Carried a pouch full of Klein tools, Klein screwdrivers, & Ideal strippers. I worked as a mechanic too, so I had several sets of Channel Locks 420s/440s/460s. Back in the day, the Sperry snap-around analog meter was top of the line. Other than a digital meter, you probably don’t need to change a thing in 2021.
I remember getting a lot of Knipex tools dirt cheap when Lowe’s clearanced them out for Southwire. At the time I wasn’t a fan of the switch over. I have never bought any Southwire tools, and I can’t say I’ll miss the opportunity. I have Ideal, Kobalt and Fluke, and have been overall happy with their quality. So the Southwire era at Lowe’s has passed. Meh, no big loss.
It’s a lot more complicated than you make it look. It’s not just what happened to the “electrical tools” section. They are also popping up in unusual places. For instance one of the more popular automatic wire strippers is from Irwin. Don’t bother looking in the electrical tools. Nope, it’s on the end of the general tools section right next to the pliers. Also there are NO electrically insulated screwdrivers (used for energized work such as screwing the screw out of the snap-in breakers). But over in the screw driver section you’ll find them branded Lenox!
So answering the bait, so here’s the problem for me. Lowes has a store roughly 2 miles from my house. Harbor Freight is across town. Home Depot is over 90 miles away. And I’ll let you in on a little hint. 10 years ago it wasn’t this way. We have Home Depots located all over. The most extreme example is that in Greenville, NC, there were 3 “big box” stores all in a row…Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, in that order. Inventory management was HORRIBLE at Home Depot. So unless you were after tools, how many times can you honestly go to Home Depot and have a poor customer experience and end up going next door to Lowes before you stop going to Home Depot?
HOWEVER, Lowes was basically carrying “Husky” grade tools for electrical but charging Klein prices with Southwire. I realize many other tool brands aren’t making their own stuff either but until recently Southwire wasn’t really even a wire and cable manufacturer. The vast majority of their product was private labeled. With Home Depot you can pretty much choose between cheap Harbor Freight grade (Husky) and pricing and Klein/Milwaukee grade/pricing, and midrange (Dewalt or Ideal) too. So if I’m working on a job and I need a tool NOW if there’s a Home Depot nearby,, that is my first choice, electrical supply house or Tractor Supply (depending on if they actually have it or not) second, and Lowes might as well be Harbor Freight…I will go there if I have to. I mean you know it’s not a real tool store when they think that 3/4″ is a “huge” socket. I don’t mean 3/4″ drive, I mean 3/4″ socket with 1/2″ or 3/8″ drive. And the Southwire knockoff of Klein screwdrivers…there’s just something about them that they are really uncomfortable to hold. And quality is just not there. I’ll go to Lowes tof lighting supplies and other “homeowner” stuff but when it comes to work related, or even stuff around my own house, if Home Depot is accessible I’ll go there.
So no as a professional, I’ve written off Lowes for almost everything a while ago. They’re good for light bulbs but almost everything they touch in the past has the “Lowes touch”…some screwy house or off brand Chinese made garbage that always manages to somehow disappoint me. Just like Harbor Freight.
That being said, Home Depot is undergoing massive changes in inventory too. Personally here is what I’m seeing. 2019/2020 all o a sudden everything was a sea of red, as in SBD Craftsman. Over at orange, yellow seems to be on the way out or pared back like Makita, and in with the more expensive red (Milwaukee) to the point where it’s becoming annoying. What appears to be happening is that these tool brands are paying big bucks for shelving space and the big box stores are fulfilling the demand. But what is happening is that they are suffering from “capture” by the tool brands so much that Lowes and Home Depot are outright losing their own “image”. By that I mean that at this point I’m left shopping for XYZ brand name and I need to go to the correct store for that brand. The reputation and value of the store itself is becoming lost. By that I mean that Lowes was originally a hardware store in Charlotte. They grew to be sort of a supersized “Ace Hardware”. Home Depot on the other hand is basically a lumber yard that grew into a more general building supply store. But now Lowes is more of a “homeowner” store for lighting, interior decoration, and appliances. Home Depot is becoming a store front for various large brand names to sell their wares…more of an upscale flea market. Lost in the mix is the “hardware store” or “lumber yard”.
I am an employee at Lowe’s and like the change. I would have liked it more if it was just Greenlee and Fluke. I just think they are more recognized for hand tools and testers. Ideal is more recognized as connectors and solutions. Overall I think it’s a good move. Southwire is an excellent wire supplier. Their tools were also very good they just weren’t what the professionals and experienced Diy’s were looking for.
Quote: “Looking at the top right-hand corner, I see Fluke multimeter sales cards. I don’t recall ever seeing Fluke test equipment at Lowe’s before.”
Must be a fluke, we’ll see if it happens again.
I’ll see myself out…
I’ll get my milwaukee from wherever it’s on ‘sale’ (compared to normally overpriced to make the ‘sales’ look good) and my klein from Amazon warehouse. In a pinch I’ll buy hf garbage to throw out after the immediate need.
I haven’t used south wire except at some trade show demos that weren’t overly impressive. I don’t like ideal tools. Don’t like the sight lines on their benders, don’t like the way the pliers fit in my hand, don’t like green eggs and ham. I don’t shop at lowes much anyway. This changes nothing for me. Lateral moves in brand offerings.
I’ve replaced every Klein tool I could with a Knipex replacement. I’ve even gone so far as to order Knipex from Germany at really nice savings compared to ordering it from anywhere in the States. Klein’s quality has not been what it once was. I am happy to see some more Ideal products in store. I came across their new 6n1 (or whatever # it was) and I really want to see if they have that in-store so I can see about replacing my Klein 11n1.
I literally get a defective plier out of every two I buy from Klein. The good ones are fine and dandy, but Knipex smokes them (well, except for the needle nose). The six and one and 11 in one drivers are virtually the same across every brand. Wiha has one now. I’d probably grab that one or the snap-on one if I was in the market to buy one.
Until I’m vaccinated. If I can avoid risk, I will.
Me too. No in store shopping since the beginning of March for me. I’ve gotten used to shopping for food via Instacart, picking up medication at the drive through window – and doing all other shopping online. There seems to be a whole new set of jobs out there – folks willing to shop for others – getting paid by Instacart or other delivery services – plus customer tips.
This may continue for me for some time – despite my over 75 status – appointments for a vaccine jab are as scarce as hens teeth in my neck of the woods.
Meanwhile my ex-compatriots in the remo and plumbing businesses tell me that they can’t keep up with the work and that 2020 was a boom year and 2021 is starting off very strong. Their main issue seems to relate to getting enough skilled workers which kind of says that there continues to be a mismatch between jobs and skills. As an example, I’m sure that there are lots of waiters, clerks and others in the hospitality industries that remain out of work – but likely few (if any) plumbers, electricians and carpenters are unemployed.
Big fan of Knipex so I was excited to see Lowes finally stocking them. Both of my Lowes offer 8 different tools from Knipex. Picked up a pair of long needle pliers few days ago.
I’d probably go to Lowes if only because i have found they have better selection than my Home Depot when it comes to the other stuff I need. Ie if I needed a circuit tester than I probably also need outlets or switches or something else. ANd I’d get better pieces at Lowes. Say 8 x out ot 10.
If I just need the tool I’d probably shop Lowes, ahd HD via phone/laptop, then cross shop internet and see if there is a good deal with quick shipping. THis is to emphasise your need it quick part. say 1 hours of checking or less to verify prices and availability. No reason to run to HD and they don’t even have the thing. etc etc
But as far as preference. I guess for the pliers and drivers, I’m not that picky I guess. I’d probably go for a more ergo screw driver. Pliers I don’t know might have to see how they feel.
HD almost always has better tool prices online than in-store. Menards tends to beat both in general supplies (wood, pipe, wire, devices, fasteners, ect) if they’re in the same area
Menards tool brand selection is lackluster though. More pricey than hf, and barely an improvement
They carry PFERD cut off wheels and used to rebrand Stabila box levels. Blowes and Home Depot can’t say that for themselves.
I just remembered, I bumped into Halder hammers at Menards too!
I end up at Lowe’s more often because it is closer (100miles) vs Home Depot (120 miles different direction) and there is a Menards close to it as well
Lowes customer service seems to be better than Home Depot. Plus you get a discount if you use your lowes card. Plus Veterans get a additional discount. I just wish we had one closer.
I was looking for a wrench Home depot could get it in a week if I ordered it online. Lowes had four. Just my experience
It looks like there might be some heavy duty wire strippers at the top left of the first picture. I can’t find those on Ideal’s website. Do you have a close up?
I really wish they’d gone with Greenlee and Fluke for their meters instead of Ideal and Fluke. Greenlee rebrands some of Brymen’s best meters for the US market, but you can’t really find them anywhere. I’m glad they’re still stocking Fluke meters and NCVTs though.
As an electrician, the only Ideal tool I carry is a pair of auto strippers that are actually a rebranded tool made by Jokari. I’ll still be going to depot for my Klein screwdrivers and walking straight out of the electrical aisle for my Channellock pliers.
I don’t, but there’s this: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKpATxRBB-6/
It does look to be new and only available at Lowe’s according to a Google search.
Ideal took a hit with Sears bankruptcy. Even if Sears Craftsman remained largely USA made they would have withered on the vine. Nobody knows how many Sears department stores remain. Maybe only 43 from a former footprint of 4200 stores. There are 2,200 Lowes stores. Ideal did not find a buyer for WF and if they still own the plant, they could use the extra production capacity. Looking forward to the new product at Lowes. Long overdue.
dave e munson
I’ve used those ideal strippers for a couple decades. Sharp, simple. The set of three take care of anything 28awg to 14awg.
Great success with mine as well. By far my favorite ty for sharing
As part of Lowe’s revamping, they’re also releasing a new Kobalt brand 11-bit screwdriver, hidden in their electrical section. Nothing especially exciting in and of itself, but it looks like they’re still releasing new products under the Kobalt name.
I know this post is old but I would very much like to know if anyone has experence with Ideal screwdrivers? Are they the same as western forge IE craftsman or on par or better than Klein? I like Klein a lot and I like the blue of Ideal. I am torn and would not mind adding some blue into my yellow but not at inferior quality. Please and thank you.
I personally liked the southwire wire strippers. Been using the same pair for better than ten years. Small tool easily to carry. Used them as a electrician in the coal mines now using them around the house boats and vehicles. Glad Home Depot will carry them.
I think it’s interesting that Lowes used to sell decent tools and HF was known for cheap junk. Now fast forward several years and the situation is reversed.
I haven’t shopped at lowes for electrical parts or tools only for the reason of I can’t stand southwire tools if I want a piece of shit tool in my tool bag id just shit one out and put it in there
So it’s good news to hear that they finally are making a change for the much better tool selection now if they could get better electrical parts then they would be back on my shopping list