You may know that Sears is in big trouble; the brand may not survive. It’s closing stores fairly rapidly and in January sold the iconic Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker. I have some history with Craftsman tools and some thoughts about what has happened, so I thought I’d share them.
Back in the 1960s, I restored an old house in Washington, D.C., while I was serving in the Navy. There was a Sears store nearby where I bought almost all my tools and materials. I loved Sears and was a very loyal customer.
But by the late 1970s, when I opened my woodworking shop, Sears was changing, and the store chain made what I thought at the time was a big strategic error when it came to Craftsman tools. They apparently didn’t see the rapid growth of interest in woodworking that was occurring. They were ideally situated to profit from this growth. Craftsman tools had an excellent reputation for quality; the tools were guaranteed for life. And there were Sears stores everywhere. I don’t know how many, but there are still 700 in the U.S. and another 300 in Canada, even after all the closings.
All Sears had to do in the late 1970s was advertise in the woodworking magazines, and maybe expand their tool line a little to meet some of the special needs of woodworkers. Instead, they did nothing (except in my one case, chase off small woodworking shops), and left the market open for home centers and dedicated woodworking stores such as Woodcraft and Rockler.
Sears had/has an entire section of their stores devoted just to tools. When was the last time you shopped there?
— Bob Flexner