Insights from the US hardware market

Peter Craven recently joined the winners of our competition to visit two iconic tool manufacturers in the US, discovering several similarities to Sutton Tools.

During 2018 we introduced new ranges from US manufacturers we distribute in Australia, Bondhus and Channellock. To promote them to the marketplace we ran a competition for our customers and area managers. The prize was a seven-day trip for two to the States to visit the Bondhus and Channellock factories, including a review of the local hardware market.

The winners were Lee Hindle and Ian Luke from The Hardware Man in Wollongong, and Sutton Tools Area Manager, Steve White. As Product Manager for Bondhus and Channellock, I was lucky enough to guide the trip and further build my knowledge of these iconic products and brands.

We were fortunate to travel in June, as recommended by our hosts at Bondhus and Channellock. The original plan to travel in February would mean encountering up to minus forty-degree temperatures – and that wasn’t going to happen!

On the banks of the Mississippi

The Bondhus factory and head office is situated in the outer suburbs of Minneapolis, near the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Our host there was Fred Leers, known to many at Sutton Tools and in the wider Australian hardware market.

Ownership remains with the Bondhus family, and the brand has a strong market share in the industrial market. Manufacturing in a modern economy means Bondhus must strive for the best quality products in the market. Competition is fierce from imports, so the range is made from specially formulated Protanium steel to ensure the high torque performance. The ball-end geometry of Bondhus is the result of decades of research and ensures superior tool engagement in the fastener.

As US wholesaler Maryland Metrics says, “Bondhus tools are handier, easier to use, more durable, more versatile than competing tools; Bondhus uses better steel, better manufacturing techniques, and better design than the competition. In torque tests, just one of several means of testing tools, Bondhus consistently beats its competitors by a large margin.”

Whilst visitors are treated very well at Bondhus, most of the manufacturing equipment has been specially modified to Bondhus high-tech requirements, so taking photographs in the production facility is politely disallowed. However, we were very impressed with the skill and dedication of the Bondhus team. Most were long term employees, some from families that had worked at Bondhus for more than one generation.

More intergenerational manufacturing

The Channellock factories are in the rural Pennsylvania town of Meadville.  Founded in 1886 by blacksmith George DeArment, the fifth generation – Jon and Ryan – are currently running the business, and their sister Joanie DeArment Sweeney only recently retired. Channellock is a major employer in the area with over 370 staff, and the DeArments are as passionate about their family, employees and community values as they are about the quality of their products.

Retail outlets around the town proudly display an extensive range of its products. The strength of the Channellock brand was also evident in other USA retailers we toured, as most in the hardware category proudly stocked a range of Channellock – from Do-It-Best independent hardware stores, to big boxes Home Depot and Lowes, to Walmart.

Channellock’s core range is proudly manufactured on-site by loyal, multi-generational, long-term employees. Understandably, Channellock is very protective of its manufacturing processes – so we don’t have a lot of photos to share – but quality comes first in the manufacturing of its products. The heat treatment process ensures Channellock pliers will cut more times than premium branded competitors. The blue handle grip is a Channellock trademark known in over 45 countries around the world.

Pliers in the new XLT range have been especially developed with enhanced leverage. Trade users will be able to use them more effectively, and for longer, reducing potential fatigue. The new Speedgrip range features push button adjustment and more adjustment points than standard tongue and groove pliers.

Taking the high road

As we’re well aware here in Australia, there’s no doubt that it’s tough to compete in the world market with premium quality tools, given the many lower cost competitors ready to take market share. Both Bondhus and Channellock have intensified their efforts to ensure the highest quality products are supplied under their brand, and that they provide both performance and value to a wide variety of users.

Like Sutton Tools, Bondhus and Channellock are long-standing, quality manufacturers that remain family owned. With so many similarities, it’s no wonder we are doing great business through our partnerships.

To learn more about our range of Channellock products, click here 

To learn more about our range of Bondhus products, click here

About the Author

Peter Craven
Peter Craven
Peter Craven is Sutton Tools’ Product Manager for a range of development projects. Peter has over 25 years’ experience in the hardware industry in merchandise management roles.