The Craftsman brand was acquired in 2018 by Stanley Black & Decker from Sears, and distribution through Lowe’s started. Ownership of the Craftsman brand by a specialized tooling company bodes well for the brand. The Craftsman brand became synonymous with Sears in 1927.
Harbor Freight has a direct-to-market range of low-cost tools manufactured in Asian countries. The Harbor Freight model is aimed at the low-cost tool market. Craftsman tools are aimed at the middle-tier priced market with a range of comparable quality brands like UltraPro, Westway, and Kobalt.
Comparing Harbor Freight to Craftsman is like comparing a supermarket to a hardware store. The Harbor Freight tools are so cheap that they are viewed as disposable. Buyers know what they are getting and do not lose money when the product fails during use. Money-back guarantees and free give-aways keep people interested. Let’s look at the difference in buyer profiles when comparing Craftsman to Harbor Freight.
Buyer Profiles Of Harbor Freight Vs. Craftsman Customers
Sears had the Craftsman trademark registered in 1927 after buying the naming rights from the Marion-Craftsman Tool Company for $500. The Craftsman tools were sold in the Sears stores and developed a loyal following from the farming community. Tom Dunlap had the tools chrome plated to appeal to the automotive repairmen in the 1930s.
The Sears market strategy offered the Craftsman, Craftsman Professional, and Craftsman Industrial brands as part of their “good, better, best” pricing approach. The Craftsman Professional and Craftsman Industrial range targeted top-quality tool brands like Snap-on, Matco, and Cornwell Quality Tools.
Their middle-tier Craftsman brand targeted young technicians that could not afford the top-tier brands but required quality tools to do their work. Soon after acquiring the Craftsman brand, Stanley Black & Decker announced that their new brand would be distributed by Lowe’s to serve the homeowner and DIY customers.
Stanley Black & Decker has committed to bringing all the manufacturing of the Craftsman tools back to the US, which bodes well for the future of the brand, given the lessons learned in the current supply chain crisis. The effect of the pandemic will be a good reason for bringing production back to the US.
Harbor Freight is a privately owned American equipment retailer based in Calabasas, California. The company owns and operates several retail chain stores and specializes in providing customers with a very good online buying platform. Harbor Freight is very honest with customers and does not set them up for disappointment.
They offer such low prices that make buying the tools for once-off use an obvious choice. If you need a large socket that will only be used occasionally and can be replaced if it breaks without leaving a sense of financial loss with the buyer, then Harbor Freight is the answer.
Many tool buyers boast at how long a Harbor Freight tool has lasted beyond their expectations. Their products are backed up by excellent exchange or refund policies that ensure that customers always benefit. Customers have such low expectations of the Harbor Freight tools that they are mostly surprised when the tools last beyond their expectations.
Professionals technicians do not expect their Craftsman or Snap-on tools to break or wear, but they are always surprised when the Harbor Freight does not fail. For the price of a ¼-inch V-Series Craftsman Comfort-Fit ratchet at $39.99, you can purchase three Pittsburg branded, ¼-inch Drive Quick Release Swivel Head Ratchet for $12.99 from Harbor Freight.
The example illustrates the difference in pricing between Craftsman and Harbor Freight products. If the nearly one hundred years of American heritage and the ownership support of Stanley Black & Decker coupled with the durability, quality, and usefulness of the Craftsman brand is not compelling, then buying from Harbor Freight will make sense.
You will not be judged for buying from Harbor Freight as they are not promising to be anything but the lowest-priced option for buying tools. If you will not be using your toolbox for any daunting projects where you cannot afford to lose time when tools occasionally fail, buying from Harbor Freight is justified.
Where Are Harbor Freight Tools Manufactured?
Harbor Freight tools are made in China by reputable manufacturers that produce branded products for other leading brands. The business model is designed to eliminate the intermediaries between the manufacturing plant and the customer allowing Harbor Freight to sell directly to end consumers at wholesale prices.
In addition to the unbelievable low prices, Harbor Freight is committed to taking back any of their products within ninety days of purchase, without any questions asked. They have over 1100 locations throughout the US where items can be exchanged for a full refund or replacement.
Where Are Craftsman Tools Manufactured?
Stanley Black & Decker has announced their intention to relocate all production of the Craftsman brand to the US shortly. Under Sears ownership which ended when Stanley Black & Decker purchased the brand in 2018, the majority of the Craftsman products were produced in China and Taiwan.
Some of the popular Craftsman products produced in the US are screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, and pliers. This content belongs to moc.sotuaytsur. Toolboxes and tool chests are produced in Mexico and China. Portable power tools are produced in Hong Kong, China.
Eliminating the supply chain risks exposed by the pandemic, all future Craftsman products will undergo a refresh, and manufacturing will be relocated to the US and combined with the Stanley Black & Decker demand. This bodes very well for the Craftsman brand.
Harbor Freight offers the cheapest tools available in the market and backs up the quality deficiencies of their products with a no-questions-asked return or refund policy. Most buyers have a positive experience with the Harbor Freight tools as their low expectations are easily exceeded by low-priced tools that last longer than expected.
As the Craftsman brand nears its centenary in 2027 under the new ownership of leading Stanley Black & Decker, it is worth considering as a quality brand at pricing levels below the premium tool brands. Craftsman Tools are well made and will last a lifetime but at a price well placed in the middle of the price ladder.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.