Private Brand Dominates Do It Yourself

cdurhamThe home-improvement boom sweeping the country has helped boost sales of private brand tools and products. In this PLMA Live! Christopher Durham looks at the opportunities for business.

Doing It Yourself

“Do It Yourself” is making a comeback in 2016. Housing turnover is up in many regions, home prices are rising and analysts report that consumer home equity positions are improving.

The retail sector has seen the benefits of this trend. The country’s two largest home improvement chains reported decent sales growth and better-than-expected revenue in their latest quarterly earnings reports. In fact, it seems that any retailer with a high-profile home improvement sections stands to do well as interest in home renovation surges.

The U.S. is home to several leading home improvement players: Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sears. Each chain sells private brands in the Do It Yourself category that offer consumers value, quality and – in the case of Sears – an almost iconic history.

Craftsman was born in 1927 when Sears decided to create a premium brand of tools. The tools would be required to meet the most rigorous set of standards to earn a place in the Craftsman line. Almost nine decades later, the brand has gained a place in virtually every garage in America.

Sears’ iconic tool private brand has long ruled the American garage; however home improvement big box retailers are taking advantage of the slow death of Sears to steal share and grow their own brands.

Mooresville, North Carolina based Lowe’s Home Improvement launched Kobalt, the “Next Generation of Tough Tools,” in 1998 as a private brand of mechanics’ tools. Since that time, the brand has extended to more than 1,700 products and become one of the fastest-growing tool brands in the United States. In 2012, the brand was named one of Landor’s Breakaway Brands to Watch.

In late 2009, Blue Hawk joined the Lowe’s private brand portfolio as the perfect complement to Kobalt. Since its introduction, it has expanded to close to 2,000 classic home improvement products. The bold, assertive American brand design confidently defines a voice that combines a masculine and assertive aesthetic with utilitarian functionality to create a truly differentiated brand.

In 2012, The Home Depot shook up their private label portfolio with a consolidation of products and the introduction of the new brand HDX. Unlike previous labels, HDX leveraged a close connection to the retailer’s name and iconic orange color, and created a relevant multi-category “trusted value” brand solution Home Depot shoppers could grow to know and love. The brand is proof that inexpensive does not have to mean ugly or embarrassing.

The brand joined The Home Depot’s venerable tool brand Husky, which was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1924. Over the years the brand changed hands numerous times due to a series of sales, mergers and acquisitions, until it ended up in the portfolio of The Home Depot in the late 1980s.

The competition is tough for the suburban DIY customer and Sears, Home Depot and Lowes are fighting tooth and nail to win. Private brands like Husky and HDX from Home Depot, and Kobalt and Blue Hawk from Lowe’s are each $1b+ brands that are changing the landscape of private brand.



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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.