Notes from the Hardware Show: Licenses Galore, New Strategies

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Design is meeting functionality at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas as categories from lawn and garden to hardware are receiving a makeover.

Much of the changes are being driven by lawn and garden and hardware industries taking their cues from the ergonomic and lighter weight design sweeping across other product categories. For example, Bond Manufacturing unveiled 300 SKUs of Miracle-Gro gardening tools — spades, shovels, rakes, trowels and other products – targeting female customers with lighter weight design and blue, pink and other colored handles that follow the lead of Miracle-Gro plant food packaging. Caterpillar licensee Active Products International also showed a two-position wheel barrow with handles that can be used for both carrying and dumping.

“It is all about practicality and demographic, and it’s about tailoring products to the homeowner with smaller-size shovels and spades and less about professional landscaping,” says Bond’s Cameron Jenkins. “We have to adjust to advancements in styles and functionality and ergonomics. Consumers expect the same innovation found in electronics, housewares and other categories to transfer to lawn and garden.”

Among other developments we observed:

  • Caterpillar is filling out its licensing program in the U.S., adding products targeting retailers and distributors catering to construction sites where its tractors and other equipment are already in use, says Christopher Hallock of Caterpillar. Conntek Integrated Solutions unveiled 50- and 100-foot extension cords designed to be paired with Caterpillar-built generators and inverters, while 17-inch and 18-inch tool bags and backpacks also are being readied. “On any job site you go to you are likely to see the Cat brand and we are trying to play off of that,” says Hallock. “We try to figure out where things are needed on a job site and once we figure that out we go out and seek licensees.”

Taiga Coolers showed 32-ounce Cat travel mugs, extending a line introduced year ago with Cat coolers. Bringing the Caterpillar brand into coolers has “required a bit of educating” since the product generally falls under sporting goods buyers that aren’t as familiar with the brand, says Wayne Ostrander of Taiga. “A lot of the problem in the U.S. is buyers see Cat as a machine and not a tough, rugged and durable brand, while the rest of the world sees it as a tough, rugged and durable brand that happens to have machines in its portfolio,” says Ostrander. Active Products also is extending its Caterpillar line of wheel barrows and shovels to other tools including post hole diggers and axes.

  • World and Main is bringing Procter and Gamble’s Swiffer brand into air cleaners for the first time. P&G worked on development of an air cleaner for about three years, before deciding to license out the products, says World and Main’s Barry Jacobs. “They decided this wasn’t going to be a billion dollar product right off the bat so let’s find a company that focuses on something of this scale and let them start the product and see where it goes,” says Jacobs. “This could go back to them at some point.” The air cleaner, which covers a 12×15-foot room, is being sold through Amazon with plans to expand distribution to other retailers in Q4, says Jacob. World and Main plans to add versions of the air cleaner with a night light for a nursery and a smaller model for an office. P&G has done a limited amount of licensing of the Swiffer brand, including one agreement for HVAC filters.
  • In addition the Miracle-Gro line, Bond, which took over this year as the Scotts Miracle-Gro licensee for cutting tools, unveiled new Scotts rakes, shovels and axes, again featuring lighter weight aluminum and custom grips but this time targeting men. At the same time, Bond also is extending its license with Stanley Black & Decker (SBD) to include 50-ft. Stanley Fatmax hoses dual-branded with DuPont Kevlar as it weaves the material into the product to prevent fraying and tearing. It also signed a Craftsman license with SBD for a version of its 50-foot Duramax hose that is shipping to Orchard Supply, Lowe’s Canada, Ace Hardware and others with a two-pack of pruners due later this year. Licensed products accounts for 28% of Bond’s annual sales, says Jenkins.
  • E-commerce/inventor platform The Grommet expects to open flagship brick and mortar locations, expanding on its mall-based store in Natick, MA, and will have a display of products in select Nordstrom stores for the holiday season, Co-Founder Jules Pieri told us. Grommet displays also will be in 1,000 of Ace Hardware’s 5,034 stores by year-end as the chain builds on its purchase of a majority stake in the company. Ace’s investment in Grommet is “a match made in heaven for our makers because it gives them a healthy business that avoids the short-term sales and we can show them a healthy long-term return path,” says Pieri. The Grommet also has exclusive agreements with about 40 of its inventors/entrepreneurs that limits distribution to independent retailers such as those that operated by Ace, says Pieri. “We really wanted to support independent retailers because we aren’t sure how” larger retailers are going to support Grommet’s inventors/entrepreneurs. Despite being a majority owner of Grommet, Ace isn’t likely to make many changes, says Pieri. “They don’t want to change us and see it as purely a financial investment and strategic,” says Pieri.


Active Products International, Ludmilla Steffen, Sales Administrator, 416-292-4492 x288, ludmilla.steffen@active

Bond Manufacturing, Cameron Jenkins, General Mgr.,925-756-3904,

Caterpillar, Christopher Hallock, Licensing Program Mgr., 760-481-7468,

Conntek Integrated Solutions, Silver Tseng, Product Mgr., 414-482-0800,

The Grommet, Jules Pieri, Co-Founder,

Scotts Miracle-Gro, Glenn Neilson, Marketing Dir., 937-644-7623,

Seltzer Licensing Group, Stuart Seltzer, Pres., 212-244-9548,

Taiga Coolers, Wayne Ostrander, Sales Mgr., 817-402-0051,

World and Main, Barry Jacobs, Senior Dir. Home Environment, 609-860-9990,