Back in 2013, Lowe’s kicked off an electrical hand tools merchandising refresh, where they discontinued brands such as Channellock and Knipex, and replaced them with Southwire Tools.
Southwire expanded their hand tool lineup over the years since then, including with select USA-made hand tools such as pliers and screwdrivers.
In 2019, Southwire came out with a new Romex hammer, and it launched on Amazon. That was one of the first indications that Southwire was expanding their tool distribution beyond Lowe’s.
Now, Southwire tools are being sold by Home Depot, and this seems to be a rather significant development.
It’s one thing for Southwire tools to be available outside Lowe’s stores and at online retailers such as Amazon. But for Home Depot to be selling Southwire tools? That’s a pretty big deal.
Did an exclusivity period between Southwire and Lowe’s end?
Is Lowe’s moving towards other electrical hand tool brands?
What will this mean for all three parties?
For Home Depot, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight regarding their exclusivity arrangement with Klein Tools. Home Depot and their partnership with Klein Tools kicked off in mid-2009, and it appears to be going strong.
It’s no surprise then, that none of the Southwire tools listed on Home Depot’s website are available anywhere near my zip code for in-store purchase or pickup.
Still, this doesn’t lessen the significance of Home Depot now being able to sell a once Lowe’s-exclusive brand, at least among retail home improvement stores.
Mike (the other one) emailed in recently, that he spotted Knipex diagonal pliers at his local Lowe’s, in the midst of the “severely depleted” electrical tools section.
Looking online, Lowe’s lists a lot of Knipex tools on their website, which isn’t at all significant, as a lot of online retailers and marketplaces now sell Knipex tools, but they do have a single size and style of Knipex Cobra pliers available for in-store pickup at several local stores.
So, to sum things up, here’s what we know so far:
- Home Depot now sells (select?) Southwire tools on their website
- There is the suggestion that Lowe’s is bringing (select?) Knipex tools back to stores
First EGO leaves Home Depot and goes to Lowe’s, and now this.
I get the feeling that we’re going to see more brand and retail shake-ups this year.
I don’t mind Southwire tools. I just hate the color.
I’ve also noticed that Menards has started carrying a growing number of Southwire Tools over the past year here in Northern Illinois. It started with a single multimeter last year, and when I was in last week, there were at least a dozen different offerings from multimeters to wire strippers to screwdrivers.
I noticed the same thing. They seemed to have decreased the amount of Ideal brand at the same time. I guess Menards is swapping Ideal for Southwire and Lowes is swapping Southwire for Ideal.
I think Lowes made a huge mistake when they got rid of Knipex.
It was around that time when lowes purged several good brands in order to make room for the “then-crap” kobalt tools (they improved a little just in time to be replaced by craftsmen…another crap tier hand tool maker that is Stanley B&D recolored low quality junk).
They should bring in a selection of WIHA, NWS, and Wera so we can have a selection of quality tools.
NWS was on shelves for a short time as a reskinned IRWIN, but IRWIN ruined it by making their blue version $10-$15 higher than the same tools in red that I could buy every day online.
Southwire is OK, but the color is awful and the screwdriver tips are to soft of a metal.
I guess my point is that I don’t shop at Lowes unless I’m being dragged in because they don’t carry quality tools.
Irwin launched a line of NWS-made pliers, but they ultimately switched to made-in-Taiwan lookalikes.
While Knipex has much broader brand name familiarity today, if a customer is planning to spend $25 to $50 on pliers, are they going to go to a Lowe’s retail store, or their favorite online distributor?
The Irwin pliers were indeed priced higher than the NWS pliers, which I didn’t understand either.
With hand tools, retailers are smart to have good, better, and best options. Even if they do bring Knipex back, they will still need a mid-priced brand. I think the problem is that one brand, only Southwire, was meant to hit every price point tier, with few other brands’ offerings available as alternatives.
Change is good, but it’s unclear as to where Lowe’s is going with their electrical tool section. Home Depot carrying select tools online might or might not be tied to whatever changes are also happening at Lowe’s.
A guy at Lowe’s told me the other day that they are changing from Southwire to Ideal and they also had a small selection of Knipex as well in the electrical tool section. They have a lot of AWP tool bags on clearance replaced with Toughbuilt.
I have yet to see anything Southwire that is compelling. BUT, if this means Lowes gets a better selection of Ideal or Knipex or whatever that would be a win.
How is the quality on Southwire stuff? They’ve just always felt to me like knockoffs of Klein.
Exactly my thoughts. So, naw, I’ll pass. Too many known quality options to bother.
It’s heavily hit or miss. There’s been one pair of pliers out of everything that I’ve bought that’s held up. Lowes doesn’t even carry the specific pair anymore. I would honestly pass and go to HD for Klein made in the 🇺🇸 stuff.
Originally it was garbage. Now they’re rebranding some US stuff. Definitely the same old Stride-Imperial (on the shelf next to Stride-Imperial knockoffs also branded as Southwire). The pliers look like possibly Pro-America/KAL but I grabbed the linesmans and I swear they felt just like my Kleins. It’s a shame Ideal had to shutdown Western Forge because the reborn Craftsman pliers they sold in the Menards electrical section were the business.
Hopefully it means they are bringing back knipex. Klien and SW are alright, but I always regret not paying a little extra and just ordering a knipex off amazon. They are all around superior tools, and it would be great to be able to buy them in store again.
You are mistaking the big box store for wanting to carry the best product versus what they can muscle the largest margin out of.
Did anyone actually go to lowes just for southwire? Never me…. I would actually rather go out of my way to not buy southwire. So not much of a loss to me.
I have (and use) the Southwire Impact Punchdown it’s better than the Klein but not as good as my Paladin PA3588.
If I couldn’t get a Paladin I’d buy the Southwire over the rest of the market. I don’t have any of there other tools so I can’t comment on those.
As an industrial electrician, I’ve literally never seen a co-worker with more than a handful of Southwire hand tools. Klein used to be the undisputed choice. Recently Knipex and Wiha have been eating into that dominance. For professional users, I just can’t see Southwire or Ideal being relevant. The Kobalt battery operated tools are actually fairly nice but switching to a battery platform without the range of options provided by Milwaukee or Dewalt is a tough sell. The only conclusion I can draw is that these moves by Lowes simply aren’t about attracting people like me. The when I buy tools it’s generally online or through specialty parts houses that I order my materials through.
Menards phased out the mix of multi-component handled Knipex and Ideal for Southwire and a dozen no name brands in their electrical department. Knipex with the dipped handles is still in the hand tools section with Channellock. Dipped waterpump pliers and the pliers wrench are the way to go for those, but the choice of stocking dipped handles for the others is puzzling. Some of the Southwire products are USA made (don’t know by). It’s cute seeing Southwire branded Stride-Imperial right next to Southwire branded Chinese knockoffs of Stride-Imperial. For a time, you could buy Channellock, Ideal and Knipex (in two handle options) linesman’s under one roof from Menards. All 3 making a unique competitor to Klein. My local tool store carries everything you can think of, but it was nice for areas that are not so lucky.
I’ve noticed digging on the Lowe’s website that it seems that Lowe’s is switching up the electrical tool selection to be all Kobalt branded tools. Not sure the quality, but my fear by making them house brand, if they start out as good tools, then they can slowly dial back the quality while maintaining pricing (thus slowly increasing margins). Good for shareholders, probably not good for consumers.
Mike (the other one)
I noticed they also has Phillips #2 Ideal screwdrivers, and some Ideal wire strippers as well.
Ideal makes great tools, and offer certain telecom tools that other brands don’t.
Southwire never really interested me, as most of their tools were made in China but had a similar price to Klein equivalents. The USA-made pliers didn’t appear to be as well finished , and the screwdrivers were not that comfortable. Their brown color scheme certainly didn’t catch the eyes.
I also noticed more Lenox tools in the plumbing section, and more Malco tools over in the HVAC area. Lowe’s strategy apparently is to have the entry level/consumer brands (Kobalt, Craftsman, Irwin, etc.) in the main tool section, while the higher end brands or specialized tools are located in the associated sections. I suppose that makes sense, but they might need to make sure shoppers are aware of the other tools available.
In the last couple of months I seen a greater selection of southwire tools available at electrical supply stores, but usually don’t buy tools their unless i am in pench. The supply stores have a pretty high mark up on their tools . The home depot usually offers the same tool for way less. But don’t plan on buying any southwires tools, there nice looking maby be similar quality,but for a few dollars more i can buy kline tools made in USA. A few years ago I was lowes and needed a pipe reamer I decided to check southwires and theirs cost 23.99( kline cost 27.99 at time) but when I saw the made in China I decided not buy it. Made in China tools should not be considered to be in same price range as usa made tools.
Definitely not a fan of SW screwdrivers and only mildly impressed with the rest of their tools. If anyone has actually use one of their newest slotted screwdrivers, you know what I mean. There is no way they can compete with Klein, Ideal, or even HF for that matter.
If HD is taking them on over Klein, that would be huge mistake, IMHO. If Lowes is dropping them, then good for them, as ideal is a good tool company.