Every now and then I’ll receive an email asking for my thoughts on Tomboy Tools. The truth is, I don’t know what to think. Tomboy Tools operates on a multi-level marketing strategy, similar to Avon, where consultants sell tools to their friends and neighbors primarily via tool parties.
The idea behind Tomboy Tools is sound – they don’t want to just sell tools to women, they want to pass along know-how and a willingness to get down and dirty with a DIY project. And this makes sense from a business perspective. Women who eagerly work on DIY projects will buy more tools.
Many of Tomboy’s tools are said to be ergonomically designed to better fit women’s smaller hands. This also makes sense.
But to be honest, it looks like most of Tomboy Tools’s products are generic import designs with a pink premium. We’ve seen something similar at stores before – no-name “women’s DIY tool kits” that cost way more than they should, just because they’re pink.
Pink paint tray: $12. You can buy one for $2 at a local hardware store or something sturdier for $6 via Amazon.
13oz hammer: $15. 12oz and 16 oz hickory-handled hammers are at the same price or even cheaper at most hardware stores. There’s a Great Neck Essentials female-specific model for $13. If you must have pink, here’s a Pink Box 12oz model for $12.
6-inch pliers: $8-9 each. I would recommend 6-inch Stanley pliers that cost significantly less, especially if you pick up a 3 or 4-tool set.
19-piece socket set: $59. The same price will get you a 95-piece Craftsman set with money left over for a couple of additional accessories.
T50 1/4″ staples (1000): $8. $3 will get you a pack of 1250 Arrow staples from the local hardware store, buying online will set you back $4.50 via Amazon.
Again, this is an objective hands-off discussion. In theory, there are quite a few tools that would be great if redesigned for women. Take a staple gun, for example. Some staple guns are notoriously difficult to squeeze and give your grip quite the workout. The Tomboy model, priced at $29, is described as having an ergonomic handle, but there’s no mention of reduced squeeze resistance.
I cannot fairly judge the tools without seeing them first-hand, but they seem a tad overpriced, especially some of the accessories.
The pink premium is not often justified, but with Tomboy Tools, customers do seem to benefit from hands-on demos and instruction. With tool-truck brands, customers often pay a premium for service and on-site access to their sales rep. With Tomboy Tools, customers pay a premium for pink female-friendly styling and at-home instruction.
Although, it looks like all you need to become a reseller is $149 or $289, plus a monthly or annual fee, depending on the starter package you choose. The starter package also includes access to online training materials and a TT Guide to Home Improvement.
It’s tough to analyze Tomboy Tools. Just going on prices, most of the tools seem overpriced compared to other homeowner and DIYer brands. Other than being pink, many of the tools and accessories offer no added female-friendly ergonomics or design features.
Update: we’ve just learned that Tomboy Tools’ consultant commission on sales is an average of 30% of the retail cost, with unspecified downline commissions.
Sales consultants want to sell more tools, and it is uncertain what their “training” entails. Maybe they’ll show potential customers how a certain project requires half the tools in their catalog – if I were selling tools that’s what I’d do.
And yes, I know that the company gives back to women’s causes and non-profits. It shows on their website that they gave 5% of total 2011 profits to the Avon Foundation for Women, half for the Breast Cancer Crusade, and half to Avon Speaks Out Against Domestic Violence.
Let’s say $100 in tool sales results in 10% profit after a consultant takes their 30% commission. This means that $0.50 goes to women’s causes. Why not buy similar non-pink tools from nationwide brands and retailers at much lower prices and then donate part of the difference in cost to women’s causes directly?
Let’s say the corporate profit on the $12 paint tray is $4, leading to a 20-cent donation. One could alternatively buy the $6 premium Wooster paint tray for $6 and donate $2 to a cause. The donation amount is 10-times higher, and the customer still has $4 in their pocket.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a respect for what Tomboy Tools says is their goal: to inspire, share, create, and empower. They seem to want women to become more confident in their DIY abilities. Maybe pink tools help that. But from where I sit, it looks like they’re just trying to sell a whole lot of overpriced pink tools to women with little to no experience shopping for tools. Maybe I’m wrong – I’d love to be wrong.
Have you used TomBoy Tools products? PLEASE share feedback with us.