What’s the difference between selling tools then, and selling tools now? Well, a lot has changed. And at the same time …. not that much.
“News travels faster now, [but] you're still selling hammers and wrenches and ratchets,” says Cornwell Tools President Bob Studenic. This was true even back in 1919. “The product line has naturally expanded as cars have become more complex. The products follow the cars and we follow that. We want to sell what our dealers want to sell, and what the end user wants to buy. [Mobile tool dealers are] still getting on a truck, driving around and stopping at the same place every week at the same time. That's the magic of this. Everything else supports that.”
The tool company officially marked its 100th year in business at this year’s annual tool fair in Orlando at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Studenic says despite the emergence of computers, new products and specialty tools, Cornwell Tools still thrives thanks to the traditional building blocks it has in place.
A custom year
The annual tool fair has grown over the years, both in terms of size and the scope of products and information available to attendees. This year, a number of vendors showed select product carrying a ‘100 Anniversary’ logo and also offered limited edition items – from creepers to knives to impact wrenches – to mark the special event.
Cornwell Tools’ Director of Marketing Don Russell says the special branding initiative has been “a long time in the works.”
This year, the family owned business announced a partnership with John Force Racing, and also revealed custom vehicles designed by Stacey David of GearZ. The David designed “Sgt. Rock” truck was mounted atop Cornwell's four new Platinum Series boxes on the show floor. Russell says, “With Sgt. Rock standing on top of the toolboxes, I can tell you they’re strong, or [you] can just go take a look at that.”
This year the entire Platinum series tool storage line was on display at the show. And while the Platinum series continues to expand, Russell says the company is seeing growth in every product category. “We’re challenging ourselves to … change things up in this 100th anniversary year.” He calls out hand tools and lighting in particular. They recently introduced a Cornwell Tools brand blueION line of premium lighting, and a second line of hand tools called bluePOWER. The Made in the USA products were well received in Orlando.
“It’s been a lot of fun [creating and growing these product lines],” Russell says. “It's the simple things we're doing day in and day out, which is finding new product, introducing new product, selling tools and helping our dealers sell tools, that contributes to our success. That's our focus. What can we do to better our dealers? Make them happy and profitable.”
“The 100th Anniversary [celebration] is more than just this weekend … it’s just going to keep going through the year,” he says.
At the mobile dealer luncheon, a Cornwell Tools tradition, 100 dealers walked across the stage to receive their Cornwell rings or watches, depending on how many years they’ve been in the ‘Top 100’. “That’s the Cream of the Crop, and we acknowledge them,” Studenic says. At the evening awards banquet speakers acknowledged the Top 20 purchasers of their hand tool line; these customers are referred to as “Iron Men”.
A tradition of sales and support
Part of helping mobile dealers to succeed year after year is providing them with tools to aid in diagnostic sales. Mobile dealers still utilize the company’s Scanner Planner on their site, and Russell announces plans for a Scanner Planner 4 later in the year. The updated edition will include pre- and post-scan information as well an overall boost in speed.
Cornwell Tools President Bob Studenic counts roughly 690 mobile dealers in the Cornwell family to date. “They come from everywhere,” he says. “Our biggest source [of recruitment] is the technician base. As simply as it sounds, we just want to sell tools, and we try to support [our mobile dealers] any way we can.”
Another thing Studenic say has remained constant since the company’s inception is the culture that comes with private ownership, and not being held accountable to shareholder expectations. “We can take deliberate steps towards longer term goals and gains, as opposed to being focused on driving sales right here, right now.”
Next year’s Cornwell tool show will take place March 13 and 14 in Nashville.