As Sears struggles to stay relevant and profitable amidst a slew of store closings and disappointing sales figures, fans of the famed Sears Craftsman brand have encountered a struggle of their own—finding the products in stores. Since 2011, Sears has shut down more than 2,000 stores, meaning loyalists have to search far and wide to find a well-stocked Sears store, where 90 percent of Craftsman products are currently sold.

But under the terms of a new deal, Stanley Black & Decker will acquire the Sears Craftsman brand, and it might not be long before we see Craftsman products starting to appear in big-box retailers. But questions about quality, warranties, and the future of the brand still abound. Here's what the future of Sears Craftsman might look like.  

Product Offerings

While the Craftsman name might conjure up images of wrenches and socket sets, hand tools account for only about a third of Craftsman’s business. Stanley Black & Decker seems to have its eye on Craftsman’s presence in the outdoor power equipment market, and with good reason. "This change should increase the availability of Craftsman products to the consumer—many of which have done well in our testing," says Peter Sawchuk, who directs much of the outdoor power equipment testing for Consumer Reports.

Indeed, Craftsman's snow blowerslawn mowers, and string trimmers have all earned top marks in our tests, and outdoor power equipment accounts for about 40 percent of Craftsman's business. Black & Decker has a more limited presence in outdoor tools and, unlike Craftsman, has none featuring gas engines. 

Where You'll Find Them

For the foreseeable future, you’ll still need to head to Sears to find Craftsman products. The deal allows Sears to continue selling the Craftsman brand in all its stores, and even once the deal has closed, Stanley Black & Decker will need to make arrangements with new retailers and ramp up production. Currently, Black & Decker tools are already available at Walmart, Target, Lowe's, and Home Depot, and in time, we might also expect to see Sears Craftsman tools at those same stores.  

Quality

The biggest unknown is whether the deal will affect the quality of Sears Craftsman products. In a recent conference call with investors, Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree noted that Sears currently sources the majority of its Craftsman tools from overseas manufacturers and, in the very short term, Stanley Black & Decker will do the same thing.

But the company does have a manufacturing base that Sears lacks—in addition to Stanley and Black & Decker, the company makes tools under the Porter Cable, Bostitch, and DeWalt brands, among others, and has a long-term plan to make more and more of those tools in the United States. If and when they do, we’ll be able to get a better sense of where Craftsman products fall in our ratings of such products as cordless drills and cordless tool kits.  

Warranties

Craftsman was something of a pioneer by offering a lifetime warranty on many of its hand tools. Loyalists might be wondering whether that warranty will remain if Sears isn’t around to honor it. The answer isn’t so clear. The terms of the Stanley Black & Decker acquisition seem to state that the company won’t be required to honor the warranties of Craftsman products purchased at Sears, but it might still do so anyway.

Most of Stanley’s hand tools already offer a lifetime warranty, and that policy could continue for its new tools manufactured under the Craftsman name. But in the interim, shoppers who want the assurance of a lifetime warranty and are worried about the future of Sears might consider different brands.  

Craftsman and Black & Decker Tools We Like

Consumer Reports has tested more than 150 products from Craftsman and Black & Decker. Here's a sample of some categories where they excel:

Craftsman Snow Blowers

Black & Decker Battery Push Mowers