Power Tools: Charged for Longterm Success

More than any other hardware category, power tools have undergone substantial change over the past five years. Along with a radical drop in price, technological advances have seen power tools become lighter, smarter and more ergonomically-friendly.

A Ryobi bandsaw at concept stage

With the advancement of new materials and manufacturing techniques and a greater emphasis on industrial design, power tools have become more comfortable to use, more controllable and safer. Advances in motor technology, as well as components such as switches and electronics have enabled designers to create products that are lighter and smaller, without losing power or performance.

“Within three years, unless a product has some kind of ergonomic feature that makes it more comfortable to use, customers won’t buy it,” says Chris McKenna, Vice-President Asia for Black & Decker.

The advent of cordless tools has had a dramatic impact on the category and according to industry sources, will continue to be an integral feature of tools in the future.

“Engineers are constantly finding ways to improve run time and to apply cordless technology to tools that previously would have drawn too much power to make it feasible,” says Andrew Miller from Ryobi Australia. “Cordless products are stretching way beyond the traditional drill and screwdriver into areas such as mitre saws, chainsaws and rotary hammer drills.”

The reduction in the purchasing price of power tools has broadened the power tool user base and brought more end users to the market. It has also meant that tools that were once the domain of the tradesman, are now available to DIYers.

“Products such as air compressors and generators have come down to a price point where the DIYer can feel comfortable about going out and purchasing one, whereas previously they were regarded as something for the trade,” says Justin McNamara from Bunnings. “And with tools now in the sub-$20 bracket, people are now giving power tools as gifts.”

While the influx of inexpensive, Asian-made power tools is good news for retailers and consumers, the news hasn’t been quite so good for high-price and mid-price point manufacturers.

“Traditional players have had to react to the influx of cheaper products,” says Justin McNamara. “It’s definitely shaken up the market.”

Chris McKenna from Black & Decker admits the influx of cheaper tools did initially have a dramatic effect on sales. “Five years ago it did have a big impact on us and certainly presented challenges,” he says. “But I believe the majority of the market is still above the bargain basement level.”

Andrew Miller from Ryobi does not believe that prices will drop further and in fact, predicts a possible price rise. “I don’t see the core, basic units such as drills, sanders and jigsaws dropping in price much further,” he says. “With labour and raw material price increases, we could even start to see prices moving up in the not too distant future.”

According to an article in DIY Europe magazine, in 2003 the global market for power tools declined by 11% in value terms, caused by the weakness of the world economy and the increasing number of low-price goods sold.

The Australian Hardware Journal

To read more about the changes to power tools and new power tools in the hardware industry, please read the Power Tools feature of the June issue.