I recently posted about Stanley Black & Decker’s acquisition of Waterloo, a USA-based tool box manufacturer.
In 2017, Waterloo petitioned the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate the pricing of tool storage products imported from China and Vietnam.
Waterloo, Metal Box International, and Stanley Black & Decker were in favor of imposing antidumping and countervailing duty orders, while Geelong, Jenger, Hom-Steel, HMC Holdings, Harbor Freight, and Sears argued in opposition to it.
Skipping to the end, the USITC has determined that tool boxes imported from China and Vietnam were benefiting from unfair subsidies and sales at less than fair value.
Very many manufacturers are on the ITC’s list as having been determined to have convervailable subsidy rates, most listed as 14.39% or 95.96%.
From what I could tell, countervailing duties, or tariffs imposted on affected imported tool storage products, will potentially affect the pricing of tool boxes from Kobalt, Husky, and many other brands.
I am very concerned that pricing will go up on consumer tool boxes.
Here is the news release, which says:
The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) today determined that a U.S. industry is materially injured by reason of imports of tool chests and cabinets from China that the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) has determined are subsidized by the government of China.
Chairman Rhonda K. Schmidtlein, Vice Chairman David S. Johanson, and Commissioners Irving A. Williamson and Meredith M. Broadbent voted in the affirmative.
As a result of the USITC’s affirmative determinations, Commerce will issue a countervailing duty order on imports of this product from China.
The Commission’s public report Tool Chests and Cabinets from China. (Investigation No. 701-TA-575 (Final), USITC Publication 4753, January 2018) will contain the views of the Commission and information developed during the investigation.
The scope of the investigation and determination excludes certain product categories, such as “service carts,” and “industrial” tool boxes that are either over 60″ in width or having each of the following characteristics:
- A body made of steel that is 0.047″ or more in thickness
- Body depth exceeding 21″
- Unit weight that exceeds pre-determined weight to width ratios
The ITC witness testimonies criticized the differentiation between “retail” and “industrial” products, and I would agree that there is no clearly defined boundary, especially not as specified in this manner.
Workbenches, supported by legs and with no drawers, one drawer, or two side by side drawers are also excluded.
What will this USITC determination mean for tool storage product selection, innovation, and pricing?
I have more reading to do, more questions to ask, and more thinking to do. I really wish I could read Waterloo’s filing and Home Depot’s preliminary statements, neither of which I could find online yet. I feel that they could help give greater context to some of what is said in the hearing transcripts and the ITC’s report.
Here’s the latest ITC report. I found some parts to be interesting summaries. Much seem to be summarizing statements made during the hearing. You can find the hearing transcript here.
Petitioner claims that the decline in Sears’ tool chest sales does not explain the difficulties faced by the U.S. producers since they were “actively trying to sell to multiple buyers during the period.” In addition, it asserts that Sears’ sales of tool chests fell more than sales of other products because other retailers had lower priced imported tool chests and cabinets.21 Petitioner calculates that Sears’ purchases ***. In addition, petitioner claims that the reduction in Sears’ sales of tool chests and cabinets was at least in part due to the lower price for similar products offered by retailers that import tool chests and cabinets, consumer purchases are driven by price, and Waterloo has had to cut its prices to Sears on average *** between 2014 and 2016 because of this competition.
It was argued in the hearing that Waterloo tied their business to Sears’, and thus suffered as Sears declined.
Respondents claim that the decline in purchases by Sears is directly related to the decline in Waterloo’s production because Sears purchased the majority of the tool chests and cabinets that Waterloo produced. They assert that Waterloo has a history of “foregoing opportunities to partner with other customers.” In addition, they allege that Waterloo failed to bid on certain lines for Sears, which caused Sears purchase these lines elsewhere. Respondents also stated that innovation is a key factor in sales of tool chests and cabinets, and Waterloo’s failure to innovate drove declining sales. Sears reports that its purchases of imports were not driven by price but by Waterloo’s unwillingness to provide the product specifications that it wanted.
Later, there’s a comment about Waterloo’s response to this:
Petitioner Waterloo testified that the focus on Sears is misplaced and pointed to a list of firms to which it has sold or tried to sell tool chests and cabinets. Waterloo also stated that the firm has the ability to offer the same accessories as the imported products, but cannot match the prices of the imported products.
There was discussion in the hearing that Waterloo didn’t bid on certain product lines, and that they were unable or unwilling to produce stainless steel products, leading otherwise potential purchasers, such as Craftsman and Sears, to look elsewhere.
Here are brands and retailers, listed by the ITC as being US importers of tool boxes. Data about their import percentages were redacted.
- CSPS Industries
- Exteme Tools
- Global Industrial
- Harbor Freight
- HMC Holdings
- Home Depot
- LG Sourcing [Lowes]
- Milwaukee Tool
- Quality Craft
- Seville Classics
- SPG international [Part of Geelong]
- Stanley Black & Decker
I don’t yet fully understand how the ITC determined that imported products benefited from unfair subsidies that “materially injured” Waterloo or other domestic manufacturers.
From what I do understand, the USITC considered the arguments made but also looked at cost and pricing data to make their determination.
“Commerce will issue a countervailing duty order on imports of this product from China.”
What will this mean for us, end users?
Personally, I own Waterloo-made Craftsman tool boxes, and I like them a lot. I don’t believe they were made here.
In recent years, new tool boxes emerged, from Milwaukee Tool, Husky, and Kobalt, with features and qualities that set them apart and above Waterloo’s offerings.
There were new features and options: Soft-closing drawers, built-in power strips, raised work surfaces, reversible work tops, easier to use casters, vertical drawers, locking personal item drawers with hinged work surfaces, pegboard backs, magnetic backs, lids supported by gas struts… and the list goes on.
Most of these new imported tool boxes and workbenches are at $500+ price points.
I can “get” Waterloo’s petition for the investigation, but at the same time, I don’t.
Waterloo made an SBD Lenox tool box for Lowes this past holiday season, and it was competitively priced. There were some public and private reports of quality concerns, but none of the Lowes near me ever had one on display for me to check out.
They recently ventured to build something new, Sears’ Craftsman Pro Series Smart-Lock tool boxes. Here’s Ben’s review, and here’s his follow-up review. The tool box looked great on paper, but multiple things went wrong in the design’s execution. We never got to the bottom of things, but ultimately Waterloo did show improvements in how they manufactured that particular unit.
I considered that Sears was rushing Waterloo to produce the units in time for the holiday shopping season.
Sears offered somewhat relevant testimony in the hearings:
When I say cited examples, I mean not only in the past, but ongoing, right now as we sit here today, where Waterloo is not able to deliver the product we want on the time that’s required. And these are reasonable time frames, but they’re simply not able to, or not willing to, I can’t — I don’t want to speak for them. But they are not delivering. So that ties our hands in terms of bringing the products that Sears wants to bring to market.
It depends in a sense how you’re using the term “innovation”. Waterloo is capable of putting features into a unit. That’s not the issue. The issue is, can they put together the size we want with the features we want in the time frame that we want? And that is where they fall short in our experience.
IF, and that’s a big if, this was referring to the Craftsman Pro series products, I could understand the difficulty – this was a new and very large size of tool storage product that Waterloo was making for Sears. If they were unable to scale their current production equipment, it might have required the creation of new production lines. Or perhaps they scaled things up but encountered other difficulties.
There was also a new Craftsman 41″ tool storage combo in late 2016, which had features and accessories similar to those found in recent popular tool storage products by Husky and Milwaukee Tool.
When I went to see if my local store had one on display, I didn’t see it, but I did find a few USA-made tool storage products. I was not impressed, but the products looked decent. They were large 41″ and 52″ USA-made chest and rolling cabinet combos, on display in red but also available in black. There were some competitive features, too.
Looking at my smarphone photos of those products, the 41″ combo was $800, and the 52″ was $900. While not amazingly good, the pricing seemed somewhat fair. Competitors’ pricing was lower, though.
Something similar and seemingly a little larger, a CAT 52″ tool storage combo, was on sale for $999 last holiday season, which seemed roughly competitive.
Would Waterloo have won more business from tool brands and retailers if imported tool box pricing was higher? I don’t know, but it looks like the USITC will be leveling the playing field.
Things get even more complex now. Is Waterloo even an OEM anymore, now that SBD has acquired them? Or will SBD aim to get their own Waterloo-made self-branded tool storage products into stores, with Lenox, Craftsman, and maybe even Dewalt labels?
The USITC is responsible for protecting US businesses against unfair disadvantages. I support that. But I’m still concerned about what this determination will mean, regarding products we buy. By “we,” I mean, you, me, and everyone else who might be in the market for new tool storage products.
Will potentially rising prices on imported tool boxes result in more innovation and the creation of more US-based tool storage factories? There are a few USA-based companies, not just Waterloo, who can step up and expand their businesses.
The imported tool boxes that could be affected could range from low-end to high-end, spanning entry level products and higher-level ones with great quality and appealing features.
As mentioned above, I need to read more and ask more questions about this matter.
The hard part is that there’s no clear side to take. Assuming that the USITC’s findings were accurate, nobody will argue that protecting US industry is a bad thing. It is good, and something I am all in favor of. But it looks like the results might be higher prices on more popular styles and brands of tool boxes, and that just sucks.
Part of me is thinking “Yay, Waterloo and US industry!” and the other part “boo, this isn’t good for us.”
If not higher retail pricing on imported tool boxes, how will the many US importers of tool boxes made in China adjust to any counterveiling duties imposed on such products?
We have seen incredibly good values in the tool storage market in recent years. I suppose, if the subsidy determination is true, we now know why. Perhaps counterveiling duties will simply normalize prices to where they should be. But if that’s the case, will brands and retailers seek to compromise on tool box features, storage capacity, or quality, and offer lesser products at the same prices that have been so appealing?
Can you make better sense of the situation than I can?
What’s to come?
I am very interested in seeing how this will contact the venerable Harbor freight 42″ tool chest combo.
Yeah that was my first thought as well.
I think it’s fair for the ITC to level the playing field if the finding is accurate and the details of those finding are made public. In short if ITC can clearly slow that all those tool chest has been subsidize by the China government. I have my doubt in this.
Secondly, now that the ITC has made a decision Waterloo better step it up and show that the unfair competition was indeed the problem and not because a lack of effort/innovation on their end. Personally I believe the later play a bigger part in their failing to compete. If they can’t step it up I really hope that they’ll just go away for good. It’s only fair to complain about the neighbor yard once you have cleaned your own…
I have a cheap waterloo 52 inch. Wood top. 8 drawer chest.
Got it for 300 canadian. Hard to beat those prices. Oh ya it is made in usa.
This type of deep digging and analysis is way too good to be only on a tool blog. Excellent work, Stu. This is one more step toward being a more informed public.
This is one of the most challenging topics I have ever attempted to cover.
Not many years ago, Sears was the only game in town for retail-grade metal tool storage. Waterloo was the only supplier for Sears, so they didn’t have many reasons to innovate or reduce costs. Why would they if they owned the vast majority of retail market share?
Sears volume steadily declines over the years. Somewhere along the way, Home Depot and Lowes enter the category with imported products, innovative features and meaningful brands. Toss in Harbor Freight’s explosive growth and good quality product offering, and Sears and Waterloo suddenly have all sorts of problems. Sounds a bit like they took their eye off the ball.
Waterloo and Sears woes aside, I do think there is a valid argument to be made about potential dumping in this case. If you do some quick math to calculate the freight cost to ship large tool chests from China or Taiwan, the cost per unit to import these has to be pretty steep. Material costs shouldn’t be too dissimilar between US-made and imported chests. Labor will be cheaper in Asia, but that doesn’t seem to add up when you consider the retail prices these imported boxes are being sold at.
Material cost differences are huge when comparing Asia to North America. Much of the worlds raw steel is milled in India and China. It is typically only higher grades, or specialty steels that are manufactured on this side of the world.
It is cheaper to import steel pipe from Asia than it is to source it on this continent. That’s a finished product where they know they only need to undercut the North American market by a little bit to make it worth a purchasers while to obtain it.
The labour cost into making the raw materials, and raw components are also magnitudes lower than they are here. One can easily make a really heavy duty tool box in Asia, import it here, sell it for 40% below what similar products are selling for, and still make a profit.
Basically, every step that goes into making a product here, from mining to retail, costs more than double what it does over there. There are many steps that are involved, and a markup at each one along the way. With lower start costs, lower continual costs, and lower mark ups, the differences are compounded many times over.
One doesn’t need government subsidies to be profitable with that number. All one needs to do is be able to sell their product for less than what the comparable locally made offerings are going for.
Its more than that.
Ive seen stuff on sale for far less than the cost of shipping. Never mind the rest .
I do not understand how it happens. I do see it with my own eyes though. An example was 2 jack stands a creeper and a jack for 25 Canadian dollars. Would cost 8 times that just to ship it from china.
I question the shipping costs you mention. Granted, I’ve been out of the industry for a few years, but it wasn’t that long ago that I was ordering 40′ containers from China (to SF) for just over $4,000. There’s no way that a box with 2 jack stands, a creeper and a jack would take $200 of that $4,000 of space.
Shipping to & from China is absurdly cheap.
My shipping number was made up. The point is valid. Lots of products on clearance are actually priced lower than the cost of shipping .
OK. We clearly are not on the same page.
yeti, that sort of practice is standard on all kind of product as not just China’s import. Retailer will sometimes sell certain product below cost for various reasons. Some are loss leader, some they just trying to move because they are not selling well. So there are a myriad of reasons why a clearance product is being sold below cost. But you knew that already…
Waterloo initially made the boxes for Husky and Kobalt, but not the same stuff as the higher end stuff they sold under their house brand and Craftsman.
At some point, the U.S. General boxes from HF and other imported stuff started improving to where they could offer a pretty decent quality metal chest with ball bearing slides at a price point that could compete with Waterloo’s lowest end and mid-tier stuff.
As for the metal, I’ve heard that China and other countries that export so much stuff they send it all over on those huge container ships receive our scrap metal and other materials to recycle and manufacture back into the products they then send over. The metal quality of course isn’t as good, but it’s more than good enough for the products being made from it, which is what matters when cost and price come into play. Makes me think maybe the U.S. manufacturers should be doing more recycling when it comes to metal, plastic, etc. goods.
curious who makes the snap on and MAC tool chests. I suspect not them.
(add other names to that if you want to on the high end)
I don’t know this will impact innovation so much but I’m more curious as to the discussion about all the other imported tools. Am I to guess no other tool maker has complained enough?
I mean OK so that new husky/milwaukee tool trolley is made in china and costs 700 dollars (or so). But what about those 4 choices of Impact Wrench where 3 are made in china and one is made in america of globally sourced pieces.
or Insert any other thing you wish.
Is this the first of other rulings to come down the pike?
I don’t think so.
With most tools, are the imported ones less expensive because they’re of lower quality, lesser materials, or less expensive to make? Or because of foreign government subsidies that imbalance the playing field?
little column A, little column B. How do we know? Why would china subsidize making a tool cabinet that says milwaukee on it – and not also subsidize making an impact wrench or the batteries with the same names on them?
I find the whole idea somewhat interesting. Either way I’m glad there are some thoughts going of the US trading with countries the same way they trade with us.
I’ve always said all this free trade is one way and I think our economy and our some of our political issues could be resolved if we started leveling the playing fields.
https://www.usitc.gov/publications/701_731/pub4753.pdf page I-5:
Table I-1 presents Commerce’s findings concerning subsidy programs pertaining to the production of tool chests and cabinets in China. Commerce identified the following government programs in China to be countervailable:
1. Preferential lending
2. Export credits from Export-Import Bank of China
3. Tax programs
4. Government provision of goods and services for less than adequate remuneration (“LTAR”)
5. Grant Programs
Grant Programs had some interesing bullet points:
* Government of China (“GOC”) and sub-central government subsidies for the development of famous brands and China world top brands.
* Special fund for energy savings technology reform.
* Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) international market exploration/development fund.
* SME technology innovation fund.
So that sound about right, other governments also want to lead their economy in certain direction and it look like some of their incentive program are just as obscure as their US equivalent… 😀
I have a friend that used to work for Ericsson he said that for awhile his company would failed to bid on all the towering contract because some China company subsidized by their government want to build out the cell tower while conveniently spy on us. I see that as a major concern and I think that’s where our government should step in.
Snap On makes their own boxes at their plant in Algona, Iowa. I bought one 2 years ago and love it.
And Waterloo used to be in Waterloo, IA. John Deere used to buy all of our tool boxes from Waterloo Industries. Those of us that were lucky, got the hand-me-down Waterloo boxes. Others got crappy Craftsman (non Waterloo) boxes.
didn’t read complete article but does this now mean all imported boxes will become 21.125” in depth?
Sort of sounds like Waterloo put too many of their eggs in Sears basket and got caught with their pants down when Milwaukee, Harbor Freight, Husky and others started putting competitive products in other big box stores (that were not closing locations).
That’s pretty much what their competitors have argued.
Yep. When i was shopping around for a tool box at home, i started at sears/craftsman because i was impressed with the older offerings. I very quuckly disappointed, and moved on to looking at lowes, harbor freight, and home depot due to price and features. Finally settled on the black husky 52″ (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-52-in-W-20-in-D-15-Drawer-Tool-Chest-and-Cabinet-Textured-Black-H52CH6TR9/206828259).
Picked up on sale for $600 + 10% military discount. At that price it offered everything i needed and more, for less than anyone else. Was such a value, i even opted for them to deliver it just to save my back.
They really have noone to blame but themselves for disappointing tool boxes. Nothing wrong with the classic basics, but the pricing doesn’t match.
Waterloo actually made their boxes for Husky, Kobalt, and lots of others in addition to Craftsman not that long ago. Thing is, they were usually the low-end or sometimes middle-tier quality boxes, almost never anything approaching the quality of stuff like the current Husky or Milwaukee box.
it doesn’t surprise me that customers and therefore retailers would go for a chest or cabinet with thicker metal, more depth, higher capacity slides, and better quality overall, for a reasonable price, over the “standard-duty” stuff that Waterloo offered that held 25lbs per drawer and usually twisted and bent when lots of tools were actually stored in it.
Like a lot of other companies, Waterloo didn’t innovate all that much. Their bread and butter was producing the same old thing over decades, and they mostly got away with it because there wasn’t a whole lot of competition or selection other than chooseing their higher end stuff, and the next step up was usually professional tool storage that cost an arm and a leg.
When they were faced with increased competition in the garage/tool storage industry, they weren’t quite up to the task and they made some improvements but it still wasn’t enough.
None of the companies make a box that holds a candle to my Waterloo Industries box that was made in Waterloo, IA for John Deere years ago. Since they left Waterloo, IA, they have gone downhill. At home I have a newer Masterforce from Menards that blows the equivalent Waterloo Craftsman away in quality. It sure seems to me that if Waterloo was playing on an even field of cost to quality, they would have been able to stay in Iowa and continue to make a superior product.
Stuart, do you happen to have a list of North American made tool box manufacturers? Or manufacturers that still make a portion of their product line “locally”?
Not really, but here’s an attempt:
Viper (but my recent mini toolboxes were made imported from Asia)
Consumer-priced tool boxes are often made overseas.
I bought a $600+ Stanley Proto that’s made in the USA, and it’s as no-frills as they come.
Montezuma is Canadian. Unsure of where they are actually built . My guess is imported
Sears? Which has been in a steady decline since ????
Our local Sears had bad customer service, selection, similar out of country products for sals, higher prices than other retailers until some special sale brought them on par …
I can’t help but think of this exact scenario whenever someone speaks about buying American or bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US. It costs more, more than most of us want to spend. Very often we end up with inferior quality in order to meet a price point. From this example, whit I’m gathering is American made translates to average quality with less innovation at a higher price. It’s a shame. I think it would have benefitted us, the consumer, and Waterloo if they had taken the German approach. Rather than coming up with a price point and working backwards, simply build a better mousetrap and sell it for a price that reflects the margins they need to make. If someone is looking to buy a new tool chest for eight or nine hundred dollars and they find one that absolutely knocks their socks off for 12 or 1400 bucks, I bet enough people would come up with the extra scratch.
I literally just made the “knocks my socks off” decision last week — but the two boxes I was considering were both Husky offerings, one less than half the cost of the other. After hashing over the cost/features balance with myself, I came up with the extra scratch and got the nicer 52” Husky offering that @IJK also landed. Very happy with it.
You do realize that to go with that german mentality they also fully exclude competition from outside the ring without paying heavily tariffs on products right? Yes that Stahlwille box might cost 3000 USD equivalent, but if you could say get a Lista box or a SBD corporate box competitor it will also cost 3000 or more by the time you get it in germany. SO there’s no incentive to buy something that isn’t the german branded thing or very little. Occasionally there is some cross competition among things made in the EU – but never further abroad.
So it’s not what I would call a fair comparison.
Barely matters financially to the average German consumer. With single payer health insurance and a month of paid vacation and the unions and the state and the banks on all major German Corporate Boards there is a very different attitude towards leveling the playing field. Oh and $100 an hour auto workers still producing very competitive autos for the world market.
So there are two recent examples of tarriffs on foreign made goods that I’m familar with (there are more, but these are two that affected me directly).
Goodyear petitioned for a tarriff on import tires under the Obama administration. A tarriff was added to Chinese made tires and it saved a Goodyear factory in the US saving 1200ish jobs. Chinese tires go more expensive. Estimates show that it probably cost the American consumer 1.1 million dollars a year in increased tire costs. That’s $900k per job saved.
Interestingly, the big winner in this tarriff action was Korea. Korean made tires are more expensive that Chinese tires but cheaper than US made tires, making them the go to for the budget consumer.
The newest data point was Trump in the last couple of weeks. Chinese made solar panels are the target. Interestingly, a Chinese company had decided to open an American factory to make solar panels. I’m surprised by this and I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
Tool chests are an interesting market. The Harbor Freight chests are on my list, but the Lowes 2000ish (I think) series hit my preferred price point. I’m finding prices to be not as badly stratified as I thought. There are cheap American options and cheap Chinese options with high end items from both as well.
There is little doubt in my mind that we will see a tarriff on Chinese tool chests. The question is, will we care? There are other countries that can make cheap chests including the US.
Fear not, Capitalism will find a way to offer tool storage at competitive prices. And if not Capitalism, there is always China.
That’s the point – prices on tool storage from China are at risk of skyrocketing.
TO the other comment – there is Taiwan, India (who I would prefer honestly), Singapore, Korea, etc.
All of whom I would value over chinese.
Just to add a data point, in the two years, I purchased several of the Craftsman Edge series tool boxes. Appear to be made by Waterloo and are essentially identical to the ballbearing/griplatch boxes of the late 90s early 2000s. I have zero complaints and would purchase again in a heartbeat. They were typically available at 50% off Sears retail every few months so I would wait till that occured to purchase. I don’t know if Sears/Waterloo are making a profit at 50% of Sears retail, but I didn’t have a problem with that price point and they were definitely more than HF, Lowes, HD, etc. boxes. I’ve never understood who would buy the cheapo units from Craftsman because they really are terrible but these Edge series ones are fantastic.
The Edge boxes are just the old Premium Griplatch boxes, just with improved 100lb rated slides, the bigger drawer pulls that were on the Industrial boxes, and newer casters, plus of course slightly different drawer layouts, and all the cosmetic trim pieces. They’re a great deal at 50% off. I don’t know for sure that they were USA-made though, or if only certain sizes were. They don’t have the in-drawer stickers the old boxes used to have saying Made in USA, and I could never find a new one with a box that said where it was made either.
I think they were the Waterloo factory in Mexico. I am pretty sure I remember seeing a Made in Mexico stamp on the cardboard packaging. I love em and was happy not to be contributing to the Chinesse economy for a change
That’s pretty amazing that Waterloo petitioned for the investigation of tool chests from China and Vietnam, considering Waterloo’s portable boxes have been manufactured in China for quite some time now, and they were made in Mexico before that. I get what they were going for, but Waterloo’s been outsourcing production of a LOT of product for some time now, it’s not like it JUST became a problem in the last few years.
It’s good to know there was all this discussion going on about tool chests and where they’re made though, I thought only those of us obsessed with tools and tool storage cared about the stuff that happened at Sears over the last few years with all the changes in the Craftsman chests and workbenches and other metal storage.
Looks like they’re blaming Waterloo’s inability to meet numbers for their decision to go with plastic Keter boxes. I think that’s a load of BS and they just wanted cheaper products and higher margins, and they probably knew they’d be selling less as more Sears and Kmart stores closed and the Craftsman brand lineup shrank overall.
To the topic of the main post, I don’t think prices on stuff will go up much, at least not permanently or in the long term. Short term, maybe, perhaps even until things get worked out by SBD in terms of the Craftsman brand and what they’re doing with Waterloo, but once they settle into full production, I’d expect the sheer volume of tools and storage items being produced to bring prices down where they were or maybe even lower.
If SBD is bullish on Waterloo like it is with Craftsman and bringing production back to the USA, I’d be fine with a price increase that lets them do that, rather than pay slightly less, but wind up with a box made in China, Vietnam, etc.
Portable boxes seem to be excluded from the scope of the investigation.
I have bought Milwaukee and Husky mobile workstations and 46″ Milwaukee tool chest that would/will be affected by this. I personally think that I got great items at fair prices.
Waterloo just sounds bitter that they didn’t adapt to the changing marketplace. Innovate and price appropriately and you will have no problem. This is true of cheaper tools such as HF or up the ladder to “high end” tools such as Festool.
To quote my favorite athlete (Sir Charles) ” Take you @#% whoopin like men and go home”
All this hoopla starts with one thing. Voting…vote for people who care about America and American made products. Vote for people who want fair trading agreements. Vote for capitalism. Support USA made products or only Chinese options will be available.
Every single article on here should always say “ and here is the USA made version of this tool “ with a link…ya not your job to do it,but it would be helpful considering Stu is in a position to know about all / most tools and where they are made.
I always look at American made products before looking elsewhere, and buy USA made whenever possible. At the very least buy German made or anywhere else but China,…
The dilemma in this case is that the Chinese product is a GOOD option to have. The products are good, and affordable.
If you read through the testimonies, Waterloo could not provide Craftsman with any stainless steel option, and so they had to look at overseas suppliers.
Waterloo did not even bid on Lowes’ Kobalt 3000 series of higher-end tool cabinets, and so Lowes and Kobalt had to look at overseas suppliers.
Waterloo’s Pro Series tool boxes for Sears Craftsman were fraught with problems.
I am very much in favor of USA-made products. But in some cases, they lack behind what you can get from international brands.
Take the Knipex Pliers Wrench. There is no USA version. Take Grip-On locking pliers. There is no USA version.
There are good pocket knives coming out of China, but also plenty of USA brands.
Choices are good. I like being able to choose between USA-made products, European products, and Asian-made products. I am not happy if say there are no USA-made options.
But in this case, end users could stand to lose imported products as affordable options.
Does Waterloo have the capacity to step in and build USA-made tool boxes to fill shelves and warehouses if Chinese factories are priced out of competition? Because that’s what this is all about, protecting Waterloo’s competitiveness.
Now that Stanley Black & Decker acquired Waterloo, does Waterloo have the interest?
Father’s Day is in less than 5 months, and Christmas in less than 1 year.
Right now, I need a new computer, but cannot afford to build a new one. Memory prices have skyrocketed due to demand in the smartphone industry, and video card prices have skyrocketed due to demand by those wanting to mine cryptocurrencies.
Does that mean I’m going to buy a Dell or Apple? No, I’m going to wait it out.
Choices are good. Pricing most imported tool box options into unaffordable territory won’t necessarily lead consumers to pay more attention to USA-made Waterloo ones.
When I posted about the new Milwaukee 46″ tool storage combo, I couldn’t think of a USA-made option to discuss in comparison. Waterloo made some for Sears Craftsman, and while I took photos of them in-store, I was never quite excited enough for a full post. There are no other USA-made options for tool box combos of that size, at least not anywhere close to the same price point.
The lack or shortage of USA made choices is a direct result of capitalism. People vote with their wallets, and their votes often say that they prefer cheaper tools.
Craftsman had USA-made ratcheting wrenches. But with Gearwrench frequently on sale, and still lower priced even when they weren’t, Sears shoppers voted with their wallets. I wasn’t happy to see Sears Craftsman eliminate their USA-made ratcheting wrenches, but at the same time I was never personally interested in them.
I was not happy at the loss of a choice, but I did understand it.
When I upgraded my ratcheting wrenches, I went with Proto, which offered more than just a “USA” stamping.
Now, Sears Craftsman killing off the Craftsman Professional tools and replacing them with imported ones? That really ticked me off. Now, there’s not even an Armstrong factory making those tools.
A news story broke last year, about Armstrong Tools shutting down operations. https://toolguyd.com/apex-tool-group-cuts-armstrong-and-allen-tool-brands/
They said “production of the Allen and Armstrong lines of hand tools will end by March 31 .”
I buy USA-made tools and equipment when I can, meaning the tools are ideal for my needs are reasonable, but some of my purchases are not easily recommendable to others.
That’s why this news is difficult for me to process. On one hand, yay – protecting USA industry is good. On the other hand, it’s going to have a very negative impact on a lot of people.
I’ve seen the latest duty percent estimates, and they’re devastatingly high. There will be no “winner,” only losers.
Quite frankly, I don’t even see how Waterloo will be able to bid for more business from Home Depot, Kobalt, Amazon, and other retailers and tool brands. If SBD intends for them to put Craftsman tool boxes on the sales floor at Lowes, in Ace Hardware, and at Amazon and their brick and mortar stores’ online distribution warehouses, where’s the capacity going to come from to make Husky, Kobalt, Milwaukee Tool, Dewalt, and other brands’ tool storage boxes? How will Waterloo be able to offer differentiating products, so that each brand’s tool boxes are not just different colors from the others’?
This whole situation is a gigantic mess.
There are some other USA tool box makers that can step up to take advantage of the situation, but do any of them have the ability or capacity to stock all Home Depot or Lowes locations by Father’s Day? Next Thanksgiving? And with products comparable to those that might be priced out of the market?
That’s the thing – Waterloo never should have shifted production offshore unless it was in addition to existing production.
I’m tired of the act that manufacturers put on that they were FORCED to close factories and send production overseas, as if squeezing MORE profit out of everything is the be-all-end-all goal of the company.
What’s so bad about just being decently profitable and being able to pay all your employees and being a made-in-USA operation?
Waterloo could easily compete with what’s on the market today, by dropping it’s outdated bottom-tier lines and shifting production to its heavier-duty, higher tier lines, and making more of those so the price per unit can be lower.
It’s also ok if their prices are higher than the China-made boxes, with a Made in USA sticker on the front, people would pay more.
ToolOf The Trade
What’s the itc going to do about it anyway? Absolutely nothing. They’re the reason that incidents like this happen to begin with. I may be mistaken, but isn’t the USITC responsible for the demise of “Proudly Made In The USA”? They’re the ones that gave the okay for our American manufacturing industry to move practically all production China and everywhere else . If you ask me, the itc should ban all US distributors from purchasing & importing any of these shady products. I had no idea that there many tool cabinet distributors. Why the hell are there so many of them? Better question is why brands like Milwaukee or Lenox, just to name a few, who doesn’t manufacture mechanics tools at all, make tool cabinets? There’s not much of a difference in a tool cabinet and tool chest from what I looked at. I thought a tool chest was more like a tool trunk similar to a truck box. There’s not much more that can be done as far as innovation goes other than adding a surge protector, which they call a “power strip” , which isn’t really innovative at all. Anybody can drill holes and zip tie or mount a surge protector to a box. It’s not hard to do.
If you look at the average tool storage combo from 10 years ago, and the ones that came out last year, there are huge differences.
It’s almost the difference between the beige computer towers from 20 years ago, and what you can buy today. Or the laptops from 2000’s and laptops today.
I appreciate your response Stuart. You make my point exactly, people vote with their wallet. Buying cheap Chinese crap, made by low wages and horrible labor conditions.
I just want a level playing field so USA companies can compete fairly with imported Chinese crap. ..I’m fine with whatever the result is if all things are equal…if companies close so be it…I’m with you on not protecting a company ( Waterloo) ….companies need to change and adapt to their customers.
In my town,(on cape cod) there is no fast food restaurants, no Home Depot , no Lowe’s…we choose to buy from local shops, ya property taxes are higher and so is peice of mind.. ….whether the Chinese make good products or not , buying them supports a communist country that does not have the best interest of America at heart, only global domination.
I’m all for choice of everything and anything, that’s capitalism. Just make the playing field the same for everyone, so American companies can compete..
I too, like knipex,wera,etc…( thanks to you) but those companies aren’t trying to squeeze out American companies to control the market like China. They are the opposite of low priced junk,,,they are high priced,high quality tools…..
IMO, ..it’s an age thing. I’m early 50’s,,,so pride and craftsmanship and quality mattered…in a job or in a tool…some companies still feel that way,, wright tools for one, SK , Snap On..Wilton vises….there are many….craftsman was great….hopefully it will be again…. your voice is loud Stuart and heard by many…keep up the great work you do !
That’s also why this is a difficult situation – Chinese companies aren’t trying to squeeze out American products with inferior lower-grade ones. Their offerings have, in recent years, established new tool box trends, styles, and features.
The Waterloo USA-made Sears Craftsman boxes I saw looked decent, but were somewhat unremarkable. There was a locking lever in the lid, for locking lower drawers, a great improvement over the annoying auto-locking system my Waterloo-made boxes all feature.
I’m not envious of the position Waterloo executives must have been in, in recent years.
Competitors say that Waterloo stopped trying to innovate and didn’t even bid on certain product lines because they couldn’t deliver, the Sears Craftsman manager said that Waterloo failed to deliver within reasonable time frames, and there were competitors’ comments about how Waterloo’s goal was to achieve a profitable buyout for their recent investment company owners, along with comments that the SBD acquisition delivered just that.
I knew that Chinese tool box makers had grabbed more market share in recent years, but didn’t even think about what it meant for Waterloo.
I would agree with their competitors, that many of Waterloo’s troubles were tied to Sears’ decline.
It’s not an even playing field because Waterloo’s products don’t bring the same appeal to the table.
One great thing about the past few years’ tool boxes is the bang for the buck you get. Good quality, great features, and reasonable prices. However, many of the offerings are “one size fits all.”
That’s what I really liked about Waterloo’s tool boxes – there were boxes sized just right for my needs.
Milwaukee, Husky, Kobalt, and to a lesser extent Dewalt, turned things around in recent years by offering great value-priced and high capacity tool boxes that appealed to many if not most customers. So what if they weren’t “ideal,” the price was right, and the overall appeal was high enough to overlook one or two unused features or less desirable configuration aspects.
But what if you wanted a 26″ chest with shallow drawers? Deeper ones? A cabinet with 5 drawers instead of 4? Waterloo was good at that.
Lower demand would mean higher prices, while boxes carried by local Sears stores often had lower prices. Once I saw 3 different SKUs for the same Waterloo-made Sears Craftsman tool box, and 3 different prices.
Could competitors’ lower prices have hurt Waterloo? Possibly. But their issues seem to have been much different than that.
None of my Waterloo boxes were made in the USA, or at least I don’t think they were. At least some of them had ambiguous origins; I remember not being able to find COO info on at least one or two of my purchases.
In this while situation, the complaint is about Waterloo having difficulty in securing business from retailers and brands.
But with their Sears Craftsman manager describing Waterloo’s inability to deliver on time, and other respondents discussing how Waterloo couldn’t deliver stainless steel products, and how they weren’t bidding for certain product lines (like Kobalt’s higher-end 3000 series tool boxes, will retailers and brands start banging down Waterloo’s door with pens to sign production contracts?
Especially with Stanley Black & Decker now owning Waterloo, and after expressing intent on using production capacity for their own retail storage, presumably for their Craftsman brand, maybe Dewalt too?
This is a mess.
If I had to guess, I would say that some brands and retailers are making contingency plans, in case the countervailing and anti-dumping duties go into effect. But I doubt they’re going to be calling Waterloo.
Reading through the testimonies,
The effect simply cannot be as what was originally sought out. Waterloo’s future is set to be far different, now under SBD ownership.
Pardon my language, but quite frankly, I think that everyone is screwed. I don’t even think Waterloo wins out here.
Consider Lowes. Will there be Waterloo-made Kobalt tool boxes next to Waterloo-made Craftsman ones? Will there be Waterloo-made Husky tool boxes when there will be Craftsman boxes at Lowes? And you know that SBD will heavily promote all of their new Craftsman products (as they should).
Sorry about that.
It’s not an even playing field. If the duties are all imposed as expected, it’ll be as if a monster truck and a tank did figure 8’s in the field while trying to avoid hail the size of canon balls falling from the sky.
There will be some ways around the duties, but only at the higher end of consumer tool boxes. At the entry and mid-budget levels, we might end up with far less selection, or if the same products as now are still available, it will be at much higher prices.
Honestly even if somehow tool chest are being subsidize by some other government I don’t see what the big deal is for company like Waterloo going away for failing to compete. I don’t see the need for everything to be made in the USA. Globalization is inevitable and it’s better to embrace it rather than to fight it. It just made more sense for certain line of product to be made else where.
I do see a very strong need for us not to depend solely on other country for any particular product. I still want to see a strong and thriving manufacturing side of the US. So we can jump back to compete in certain segment of the market anytime if we need to. But I also want us to be lean and mean. So what if some foreign government decide to subsidize on certain product? We just compete on another level. I see Stuart mentioned some grant and other government incentives. The US government also subsidize certain segment of the market as well. Amazon is about to open a second headquarter in the US. So all the city are pitted against each other to compete for all kind of subsidization. It’s business as usual…
So rather than trying to counter-tax our import goods to try to keep some outdated company that is failing to compete around, why don’t we incentivize the need for innovation in the US. So perhaps our Waterloo’s craftsmen no longer to work for Waterloo but now working for Stanley Black and Decker’s Waterloo? So perhaps we won’t be make any entry level consumer tool chest. So perhaps the bar has been raised that entry level tool chest is so much better than it once was. Sound like a win win to me…
Is this something tool companies really need to be concerning themselves with? How big of a business is the tool chest business and is this something that there needs to be massive amounts of competition in? I mean it is just a glorified rolling box really. I would figure the bigger long term concern should be the fact that internal combustion engines could eventually end up like the dodo. A lot of these electric vehicles don’t have a lot of moving parts. Twenty years from now and the modern mechanic could look totally different and the tools he needs could be entirely different with more emphasis on the electrical end and such. That would frighten me a lot more if I were one of these American businesses that only deal with wrenches and other hand tools.
The world itself is changing faster than a lot of people and businesses can adapt to. I would also be concerned with the fact that companies are more and more being scooped up by mega corporations to the point that if something ever should happen to the economy again (fear the boom because the bust is right behind) these even-more-gigantic-than-before corporations will again be too big to fail.
I don’t see it as any consumer’s fault for wanting to spend their money on the best available product in the price range they are willing to pay for. American manufacturing got sacrificed on the altar of bad US monetary policy (Federal Reserve, fractional reserve banking, etc). Decades upon decades of inflation have made it so Americans purchasing power has become less and less. Some American manufacturers have adjusted their prices upwards to reflect these rising costs of doing business inside the US while others have gone overseas in an effort to keep the prices the same or lower than their competitors. Protectionism is only going to hurt the US consumer if the US decides to start getting into trade wars.
As for Waterloo it seems to me that they were more a casualty of not being able to adapt. If you’re building a US made tool chest and you are selling it for a bit more than the made in China offerings while not being at all feature rich then you’re probably going to have a hard time selling them.
Could you tell me which make and model tool box is pictured for this article?