From the moment distributors took the floor at the 2012 Mac Tools Tool Fair almost right up to the moment the doors closed on the final day, tool suppliers were busy selling. This was a welcome change from last year's show, and it reflects the obvious: business is good for Mac Tools distributors and for Mac Tools.
The improvement is due largely to the work of the company's management team, lead by Mac Tools' new president Brett Shaw. In describing his position, Shaw said "I have three jobs: manufacturing tools, delivering tools, (and) motivating our distributors 52 weeks a year."
Since merging with Stanley Black & Decker two years ago, the Mac Tools division has been focused on improving their share of the professional tool market, and their work is bearing fruit.
At Thursday's dinner, Shaw proudly announced a record 15 percent growth in sales over last year. Also announced was Stanley Black & Decker's acquisition of Lista North America, maker of industrial storage cabinets and workstations, and of Cribmaster, maker of tool inventory management software such as that used in the aerospace industry. With these acquisitions, the company now has engineering, management and manufacturing resources simply not available to Mac Tools' competitors.
In an exclusive interview with Professional Distributor, Shaw said his primary focus right now is on improving the effectiveness of his distributors, and he'll do this by making "distributor-focused investments in value and operational excellence."
To understand the 'operational' part, Shaw spent part of his second year at Mac Tools examining the business from the bottom up. He rode with dozens of tool distributors in the U.S. and Canada to learn how they work with customers and with the company. From this experience Shaw said he learned "there have been too many changes in the past. We're getting back to basics. It's our job to give (distributors) as much time to sell as possible." He went on to describe new customer service initiatives that will make it easier for distributors to find, order and obtain the tools requested by their customers.
Shaw also told Professional Distributor that "Product leadership is just as important as being distributor focused."
Mac Tools has embarked on a two-year, $30 million program of developing new products and production capabilities. Their toolbox manufacturing plant has already been upgraded with automated production and paint equipment, enabling them to fill special orders quickly because they "can paint every color, every day."
A new addition to the Macsimizer toolbox series was introduced at the show, as well as their redesigned line of premium air impact wrenches and a new line of cordless electric tools. Even their standard hand wrenches have been updated with a new shank designed to reduce fatigue. Several specialty tools were introduced, and over the next two years, Mac Tools expects to introduce dozens more.
Shaw is tackling the third part of his job with new marketing initiatives, including motorsports, "because our customer goes there, our distributors go there, and we have history there." For several years now, Stanley Black & Decker has been the primary sponsor for a Richard Petty car in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series. This year's No. 9 car, driven by Marcos Ambrose, will sport a Mac Tools paint scheme in 4 races. Mac Tools also announced sponsorship of NHRA Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta's team, beginning with the Mac Tools US Nationals in September and running through the 2014 NHRA season.
We asked Shaw to sum up what he learned about tool distributors while riding with them over the past year, and this is what he told us: "Distributors are providing a service. They make it possible for their customer to handle all their tool business within their normal workday, without having to leave his shop. (But) they work beyond the normal day to make that possible. These are good people, and that's a humbling thing … they're putting faith in us as a company and a brand…most of them have never owned a business before, they go from a paycheck to cash flow, and we have to teach them how to do that."