Like you, we couldn’t help but get a little excited when we heard Ace Hardware’s announcement that they’ll carry Craftsman tools. And it looks like that’ll happen as we’ve heard that Craftsman has indeed introduced Ace stores to their products. But we still have two big questions.
First, we wonder how many Ace stores will actually carry the tools. Unlike Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other big-box stores, Ace Hardware stores are independently owned and operated. They’re called “two-steps” because while they do purchase products through the Ace franchise — which gives them some group buying power to compete with those big-box competitors — each store can choose (as far as we’re aware) what specific products they buy and carry as inventory. Ace buyers attend large conventions at which various approved vendors show their goods, and said buyers place orders for what they’ll sell back at the store.
So will buyers ante up for Craftsman tools? And if so, which tools will they carry? Will they carry Craftsman-branded power tools? Heck, even Sears doesn’t hang their hat on the Craftsman brand alone when it comes to power tools; they stock lots of other brands — even in stores.
And what if they choose to carry the brand-defining mechanics’ tools? That leads us to our next big question: Will they honor question-free, walk-in tool replacements?
We can’t help but wonder how that’ll work. While Sears stores manage inventory as a group — meaning that it’s easy for corporate to keep replacement inventory and associated repair supplies (like ratchet kits and such) on hand — Ace stores handle their own. Will the individual Ace stores pony up to keep those supplies on hand? And how will Ace handle the warranty returns if/when you bring a busted tool in?
We’ll keep our ear to the ground, as we’re sure you will as well. Can’t wait to see what happens.