OSH powers ahead: The hardware retailer unveils its own brand of power tools

California-based Orchard Supply Hardware recently released its own 12-piece house line of power tools in November to try to meet the demand of its core customer: the dedicated do-it-yourselfer.

“We were trying to create a viable alternative to the national brands that our customers could still find in our stores,” said Tony Cartelli, OSH buyer for power tools.

National brands will continue to drive traffic to OSH in the power tool category. For instance, the company’s online holiday tool gift guide still features national brand power-tools like Black & Decker, DeWalt, Makita, Bosch and Craftsman.

One strategy for the new line to distinguish itself and compete with other powerhouse house brands such as Ryobi (Home Depot), Craftsman (Sears) and Firestorm (Lowe’s) is by keeping the name simple: OSH.

“We felt it was important to put the OSH name on the product,” said Cartelli. “Our customers know and trust us.” Cartelli added that by putting its name on the product, the company was staking its reputation on it as well.

OSH isn’t new to the house brand market. They’ve had OSH-branded tools in stock for years, but Cartelli said that OSH is the first company to put its name on a line of power tools.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “We had to pay particular attention to the quality of the product.”

One example of that would be the new 18-volt cordless drill, which includes two speeds, 24 torque settings, two batteries and a one-hour quick charger for $69.99. It also includes a two-year warranty.

“You get a lot of features for that price compared to some of the national brands,” he said.

The new line features four cordless (7.2v, 9.6v, 12v and 18v) and one corded drill, an angle grinder, three sanders (orbital, 1/4 sheet palm and detail), a jigsaw, reciprocating saw and a circular saw. OSH offers each tool with a two-year warranty.

“This has been a year-long project,” said Cartelli, “from deciding they wanted to do it, to the market research and development of the tools, production and distribution and marketing”

OSH launched a major marketing campaign, paying particular attention to extensive print and circular marketing, an interactive Flash display on the company’s Web site, eye-catching displays and endcaps in its stores and offering a special introductory rate for the first 10 days of the product launch.

The company also pre-released the tools to its associates at drastically discounted prices, giving them a chance to use the products prior to their release.

“Our associates have firsthand knowledge of the tools,” said Cartelli.

According to the company, sales of the new line are already exceeding their expectations.

“So far the customer response has been really good,” said Cartelli.

Of course, Cartelli also attributes the initial sales strength to the company’s choice to capitalize on the holiday buying season by launching in the fourth quarter.

“We really targeted it for a fourth-quarter launch,” he said. “More power tools get bought in the fourth quarter than any other time of the year.”

Cartelli said that the 12-piece launch is only the beginning for the OSH power tools, and there are plans to expand the line in the future.

“We’re happy with the launch, and we’re looking forward to expanding that line next year,” concluded Cartelli.