Category Report: Hand tools

When Black & Decker rolled out its pivoting RapidRoller paint roller, which stores paint in its hollow handle, the Towson, Md.-based company was unveiling not just a new paint product, but a tool that reflects one of the biggest trends in hand tool design.

The RapidRoller “solves common user frustrations,” said Steve Wiezorek, group product manager for Black & Decker. “The RapidRoller Paint Roller was designed with the customer in mind and helps speed up painting projects, eliminating trips to the paint tray.”

The hand tool category is seeing plenty of innovation on products that have been around for hundreds of years — even the hammer is not immune to ease-of-use improvements — such as the improved feel of the Stanley FatMax Xtreme anti-vibe rip claw nailing hammer with the magnetic nail starter.

The concept of a single-tool providing multiple functions or added value has never been more pronounced. The Jorgensen Expandable Clamp, for instance, comes in a basic 6-in. width. But if customers buy two such clamps, the ends of the tool will interlock in such a way as to create a larger 12-in. clamp.

Tool manufacturers are also simplifying packaging. Case in point: General Tools & Instruments’ Heat Seeker, a gun-style infrared thermometer, contains three pictures on the packaging that show the product in action.

During a recent State of the Industry Series Webinar on hand tools and tool storage co-hosted by NPD Group and Home Channel News, NPD’s Peter Goldman, president of the research firm’s home division, said the opportunity for tool sales exists particularly among consumers in the 18-to-27 “Generation Y” age group.

Ownership incidence across the three Generations — Gen Y, Gen X (28 to 44 years old), and baby boomers (45 to 64 years old) — averages at 87%. But Gen Y, predictably, comes in at 76% ownership incidence for hand tools.

“Younger consumers absolutely represent an opportunity. They are more optimistic about the economy, they are more likely to purchase a home or engage in home improvement activity, and the low penetration really stands out in hand tools and tool storage,” Goldman said.