Bonus Content

Hand and Power Tools: Current Trends and Drivers

 

By Susan Bloom

An estimated $10 billion to $12 billion annual industry that offers
an essential means of completing so many critical tasks, hand and power
tools are the instruments that enable professionals and residential
DIY-ers alike to keep a wide variety of systems in the built environment
intact and running. Here, several key manufacturers discuss the broad
range of applications for tools, current trends and drivers within the
category, and ways in which electrical distributors can enhance their
expertise and maximize their participation in this prominent product
segment.

“Electrical professionals are very tool-intensive individuals,”
confirmed Alan Sipe, president and general manager, North America, at
Knipex Tools (knipex-tools.com). “Among the most popular are the ‘basic
seven’—side cutters, diagonal pliers, long nose pliers, wire strippers,
#2 Phillips and 4″ slotted screwdrivers, and 25’ tape measures. From
there,” he said, “depending on the user’s specific niche, the list is
almost endless. An electrician in Canada and the northwestern United
States, for instance, will always have a Robertson square-tip
screwdriver, while a commercial or industrial electrician can’t survive
without a good hex key set, and those who work with conduit will likely
have benders, levels, and probably a Jack Benfield ‘Conduit Bending
Manual.’

“Electricians are often specialists in one trade, but masters of
all—electrical, plumbing, solar, HVAC/R, datacom, mechanics, carpentry,
and general construction,” he continued, “and if it has a wire in or
around it, an electrician must know about it—and have a tool to address
it.”

“Electricians use hand and power tools in virtually every task they
perform,” agreed Brian Slayton, business unit manager, tools and
supplies, for Ideal Industries (ideal.com), noting that the market’s
range of tools cover the gamut, from those used to cut and strip wires
to testers designed for troubleshooting installed circuits.

According to Slayton, carpal tunnel injuries are still commonplace
among electricians as a result of the repetitive use of tools designed
with poor consideration of human factors. To address this reality, Ideal
and other players have worked to modify traditional tools for greater
comfort and ease of use, introducing tools with enhanced torque,
ergonomic handles that allow for improved grip, leverage, and comfort,
and drill attachments that both eliminate the arm, shoulder, and wrist
strain associated with cutting heavy-duty copper and aluminum cables
while improving working efficiency.

“Users need their tools to work harder and longer so that they don’t
have to worry about the tools failing on them during the job; as a
result, they’re always in search of the best and most durable products
available,” said Ryan DeArment, vice president of sales and marketing at
Channellock (channellock.com). To help address this need, Channellock
and other players have launched tools with slimmer profiles that enhance
ease of use. For example, “we designed our E Series line of pliers for
jobs defined by space limitations; when you’re working in tight spots,
getting your hands in the best position to get leverage isn’t always
possible, but these streamlined tools take up to 40% less force to make
clean, accurate cuts than other high-leverage type pliers, making the
job a little easier,” he said.

Space-saving and high-efficiency tools are also being received
favorably by users. “In order to lighten their loads and tool pouches,”
Sipe said, “electricians continue to look for and purchase the best
quality hand tools they can and are moving to high-quality and specialty
multi-tools that allow them to do multiple tasks with a single tool.”
With professionals now better trained and educated on the proper use of
tools, he added, “they understand that a high-leverage 10″ diagonal
pliers reaches deeper and cuts 25% easier than an 8″ tool for the
average journeyman, features which make their job and the experience
easier.”

Finally, as the construction industry rebounds and electricians
continue to branch out into more and more disciplines, “their tool needs
will expand exponentially,” Sipe said. Channellock’s largest wrench,
for example, “was recently brought to market as a result of the demand
for specific tools created by the fuel exploration and oil and gas
industries – two of the fastest growing sectors today,” DeArment said.

Tips for the Trade
“When it comes to selling hand tools, electrical distributors need
help competing against major retail outlets, a task which requires their
use of creative merchandising techniques,” Slayton said.

DeArment agreed. “This means having the most relevant
point-of-purchase (POP) displays, product images, specification sheets,
press releases, catalogs, and digital signage on hand to help influence
customer purchasing decisions,” DeArment said. “Most electricians in the
United Stats must purchase their own basic hand tools, so to them it’s a
retail purchase, and the distributor’s counter area is the perfect
selling opportunity,” Sipe concurred. “Does your tool display look
clean, crisp and inviting? Take off your manager’s/owner’s hat and walk
into your counter area as a customer would. What does it really look
like? Would the layout, assortment, and cleanliness encourage you to buy
there?” he asked. Additionally, “the same tools at a big box retailer
sell for more than the average electrical distributor charges in many
cases,” Sipe noted, suggesting that electrical distributors aren’t
necessarily pricing tools high enough relative to competitors.

Product and sales expertise and training are also key, said Slayton.
“There’s no question that electricians are more involved in data
communications, home theater, and IP video security installations than
they were a few short years ago. As a result,” he said, “distributors
need to ensure that they have informed counter salespeople to point
customers to the right tool for the job and help support skilled
electricians in an evolving trade.”

Click here  to view this month’s photo gallery of hand and power tools.

Susan Bloom is a 20-year veteran of the lighting and electrical products industry. Reach her at susan.bloom.chester@gmail.com.

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