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When contractor supply houses, distributors and wholesalers consider options for the power tool accessories (PTAs) they will offer on their retail floors or online, the decision deserves thoughtful consideration. The risk of a poor purchasing decision based solely on price, convenience or a flawed understanding of actual brand quality can be negative, haloing customer perceptions projected back to that retailer.
Those perceptions can be formed around the idea that the retailer carries inferior products, an opinion which can ultimately negatively affect both their reputations and resulting customer loyalty.
Clearly, contractor supply houses are not hardware stores and do not necessary serve as a primary destination for PTAs. Yet, products in this category are still important to the trade professionals who walk through their doors, including plumbers, electricians and drywallers.
Selling quality items can be essential to customers’ safety, efficiently finishing a project and promptly purchasing more supplies for the next one. Supply houses also can add significant value by becoming a reliable one-stop-shop for all the ancillary items required for a project.
Everyone knows that having the right tool is half the job. When it comes to PTAs, that can involve drill bits that must reliably bore into various materials without breaking. Likewise, reciprocating blades and circular saw blades must dependably cut with accuracy. Taps and dies should create clean, reliable threads on nuts and bolts, so parts remain safe and securely fastened.
In the case of broken, rusted, jammed, seized or painted screws and bolts, contractors need reliable extractor options. Inferior quality options stand to further complicate the problem by risking a break, slip or stripping of the object they are trying to remove.
Traditionally, contractors and their supply wholesale partners carefully consider the power tools they use and sell, as well as all necessary bulk materials. That consideration may be less systematic when grabbing power tool accessories. However, those contractors tend to be unforgiving if they have to interrupt the job, go back to the store and fight to replace or make a warranty claim on a failed accessory.
Tempers flare if work is affected or property at the jobsite is damaged. Those burned once too often will be prone to change suppliers and post scathing social media reviews. Litigation is even possible if a defective product causes injury.
Consequently, more wholesale distributors and supply houses are recognizing that the lifetime value of their customers can be significantly increased by providing convenient one-stop shopping of parts and materials, along with quality PTAs that “stay sold.” Cheap overseas imports, by skimping on materials and quality, are more prone to failure.
“When trade professionals leave a wholesaler with a truck bed full of materials to complete their job, rest assured that nearly all will require power tool accessories to safely complete those jobs on time and on budget,” says Darrin Purcell, CEO of Century Drill & Tool. “By carrying a contractor-grade brand and reasonable breadth of line to capture most of their customers’ needs, wholesalers can capture those purchases and save those customers another stop on their way to the jobsite.”
Quality and Performance
When it comes to the PTAs used on power tools, there seems to be a debate about retailing best practices. This debate is likely rooted in the reality that it is ultimately the power tool accessory itself that dictates performance. Meaning, it is the quality of the attached drill bit, screwdriving tip or any number of other accessories determining the ease and speed of repair or installation.
“Every brand is acceptable until it is not,” Purcell says. “What I mean is each customer develops, over time, an ‘acceptable set’ of brands based on their personal experience and those of other contractors they trust.”
The risk to wholesalers associated with selling inferior brands that lead to problems in the field and product returns is having the experience negatively impact their longer-term relationship with the customer.
“With thousands of dollars of material in his pickup truck on its way to the job, the contractor is less concerned with paying $6 or $8 for a masonry bit than he is with knowing that the one he bought is a quality product,” Purcell noted. “He doesn’t want to be running off the jobsite in an hour because the bit he bought broke or only drilled two holes.”
As a result, a growing number of wholesale distributors are looking to stock brand alternatives that can provide reliable performance, durability and expanded choice, as well as better value, margins and merchandising in the PTA category.
Focus on PTAs
Although it can be difficult to identify differences while standing in a supply house making selections, the quality inherent in various brands of PTAs can differ dramatically.
Quality is a function of the elemental “ingredients” used to make the accessory (composition), the method of manufacturing processes employed (e.g., fully ground versus rolled forging) and the consistent presence of the necessary geometry in that final product reliably produced by the manufacturing process, Purcell notes.
Of these three factors, the chemical composition is likely the most significant differentiator across the category and is the easiest to test for using methods of chemical analysis. Inferior products used in challenging applications can lead to premature failure and poor performance.
In the case of traditional jobber-style drill bits, a combination of molybdenum and tungsten (or cobalt) from the periodic table of elements is used in varying ratios to deliver the necessary heat resistance. Traditionally, the combination should add up to at least 12 percent or better — with tungsten, molybdenum, then cobalt offering good, better and best quality, respectively.
However, poor quality and failure on the job can result when manufacturers attempting to lower costs swap out molybdenum for more tungsten, or significantly reduce the presence of both elements. So, distributors aiming to provide trade professionals with quality drill bits that reliably perform wherever necessary will supply those with molybdenum and tungsten adding up to 12 percent or better.
For example, Century Drill & Tool uses M2 steel to construct all its jobber drills except for its opening price point offering. M2 steel is the highest standard used in the United States today, with 6 percent molybdenum and 6 percent tungsten.
Finally, packaging also can play a role in a strong PTA merchandising strategy. “Packaging offers visual cues to help customers make quick and accurate buying decisions,” Purcell says. “These cues include color coding to differentiate product quality levels, life span ratings to rationalize progressive pricing, illustrated target materials to highlight intended use, and added feature callouts to drive further differentiation.”
Although contractor supply houses will always offer unbranded, cheap imported items, rounding out PTA offerings with alternatives from other suppliers dedicated to the category can be beneficial.
Adding an expanded line of power tool accessories can enhance wholesalers’ category performance. With a broader breadth of line to capture more sales and additional margin through the right brand choice, wholesalers have reported higher profits from power tool accessories.
Part of it comes from capturing sales that would otherwise have gone to other retail channels as the captive audience contractor leaves the wholesaler’s contractor desk and heads back to the jobsite.
The ultimate advantage is supplying a quality PTA to professional contractors that lets them quickly get the job done without complaints, returns or warranty claims. As such, they complete their jobs on budget and on time and get started on the next project with its resulting big-ticket material purchases.
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