A couple of readers were told by Lowes store associates that Craftsman tools will be replacing Kobalt offerings.
For instance, in a recent comment to our post about the Lowes-Craftsman partnership, Daniel says:
I’ve asked people at two different Lowes in my area and both said the plan is to phase Kobalt tools out and phase craftsman in.
Is this true?
I haven’t asked anyone yet (will they tell me inside details if I do?), so bear with me as I think this through aloud.
Would Lowes replace their Kobalt tools with Craftsman offerings? Possibly, on a per-product basis. Would Lowes allow Craftsman tools to eclipse their Kobalt offerings? That’s a tough one, but I don’t think so. Would Lowes REPLACE their Kobalt brand with Craftsman? No, I really don’t think so.
Let’s for a moment assume that Stanley Black & Decker have a strong distribution agreement, and let’s say that Lowes has exclusive retail store rights. What happens if or when that agreement expires? If Kobalt is gone, and Craftsman dials down, Lowes is left in a tough position.
I’m sure that Craftsman tools will be replacing some Kobalt offerings at Lowes. As Andrew reported in his post about Orchard Supply Hardware closures, Lowes is seeking to rework their inventory. Still, right now they have finite floor and shelf space. They cannot possibly add even a fraction of the new Craftsman SKUs without dropping others.
So, Craftsman tools will be replacing some other offerings at Lowes. We don’t know what brands that will be. Will Craftsman tools take space currently reserved for Kobalt tools? That seems likely – there are a lot of Kobalt tools, and I’m sure that not all of them are popular sellers. But all of them, as some readers report being told? No.
Maybe store associates know something I don’t. But for Lowes to minimize their Kobalt brand in the way that has been suggested?
What would be Lowes’ incentive to do so? In my opinion, it would be a bad move, and one that would hurt them in the long-term.
If anything, I would think that we’ll see a targeted replacement strategy, keeping focus on top-sellers, and perhaps giving up shelf space for less popular items. That’s in line with what Lowes is already looking to do.
Ultimately, we’re going to have to see what happens and how things go. But if you ask me, Lowes is NOT replacing their in-house Kobalt brand. Maybe some tools are being cleared out to make space for Craftsman. That would make sense to me, and even be welcome. But I wouldn’t for a second consider that we’ll see a widespread phasing-out.
Take Kobalt’s cordless power tools, for instance. They won’t be replaced with Craftsman tools. Kobalt hand tool sets? No. Why? Because there’s competitive advantages to keeping separate offerings. Even Sears, which previously owned the Craftsman brand, had a number of other brand offerings, for sales variety.
What do you think will happen?
What do you want to happen?