Every now and then I stumble across a seemingly boring topic that turns out to be interesting. This is one of those times and the interesting thing is a story on Seeking Alpha’s website about the global ambitions of the world’s largest tool company, Stanley Black & Decker (SB&D).
The story was authored by Ben Strubel, an investment manager who performed an analysis of SB&D to decide if its stock was worth buying. Personally, I don’t know or care if any tool company’s stock is worth buying, but I am interested in what tool companies do and where they think the market is headed.
There is nothing secret about any of this; SB&D is a publicly traded company, and like other publicly traded companies its corporate website contains more financial documents and reports than you or I would ever be able to read.
The lion's share of SB&D’s business is in developed countries in North America and Europe, markets that are relatively stagnant and highly dependent on construction and housing. There are not a lot of growth opportunities there. SB&D hopes to solve this problem by selling more tools in the developing world, a relatively untapped market with greater opportunities. Strubel’s analysis was performed before the recent stock market crash in China and it’s unclear how that will affect tool sales in the developing world.
The table below is from Strubel’s article and lists SB&D’s main U.S. rivals.
Strubel had the following to say about the brands in the table:
"As you can tell by the long list of brands, competition in the industry is fierce with Bosch, Makita, and Techtronic Industries being the larger competitors. Stanley and Techtronic Industries have strong presences in North America while Bosch and Makita have stronger operations in Europe."
This squares with my sense of the companies, at least in terms of cordless power tool sales. In 2014 we surveyed Tools of the Trade readers about cordless power tools, and remodelers (the single largest group that responded) preferred DeWalt, Milwaukee, and Makita—in that order. Bosch and Ridgid were tied for fourth. The order of preference was more or less the same for builders, finish carpenters, and repair carpenters. Electricians were the outlier, preferring Milwaukee over all other brands.
The results of our survey reflect the relative popularity of cordless tool brands with the Tools of the Trade audience and does not necessarily relate to the size of the brands or their positions in the market. The table below came from SB&D’s Investor Overview dated 7/31/2015 and will give you a sense of the relative size of the companies in terms of their global tools and storage businesses. The arrows show if the company's market share is increasing, decreasing, or holding steady.