Superbrands case studies: Black & Decker

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands' Volume V, March 2003. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

Case study provided by Superbrands.


There are many factors that affect the health of the DIY market; from the state of the housing market, the performance of the economy, to weather conditions and the media. The increasingly competitive DIY industry is fairing well compared to other sectors after suffering badly in the uncertain economic climate of the late 1980s. Throughout the early 1990s the industry struggled to find its feet due to the scarcity of new homeowners and a subsequent slump in the home improvement market.

This situation was further exacerbated by an influx of brands from the Far East. However, the mid 1990s saw early signs of recovery in the market place and since then, the industry has gone from strength to strength.

The buying and selling of houses has not only helped sustain the DIY and decorating market, but has helped encourage more activity within the sector. People generally view DIY and decorating as an investment when selling their home. Alternatively, homebuyers want to redecorate their new home in a style akin to their tastes.

Other factors aiding the growth of the market include the change in the traditional make-up of the family which has taken place in recent years. A rise in the number of people separated or divorced has meant that more people are living on their own. In addition to this, people are having children later in life, which means that they are staying in the pre-family lifestage for a longer period.

Gardening and DIY are now amongst the nation's favourite pastimes. This upsurge in fortunes has been aided by media programmes and lifestyle magazine coverage of DIY such as the BBC programme Changing Rooms. This has helped to introduce new users to the market with a 'Do it now' attitude to style and decoration. DIY is now being perceived as being more of a leisure activity than a chore.

In the power tools market in which Black & Decker operates, 5.3 million items were sold in the UK in 2001, with the greatest growth area being in drills and circular saws. First time buyers accounted for 48% of these purchases (Source: ConsumerSCOPE).

Women now represent 15% of main users compared with 9% in 1996 (Source: ConsumerSCOPE Quarterly) with 48% considering themselves active or very active in DIY activities (Source: ConsumerSCOPE Monthly). In addition, 35% of power tools are purchased by women (Source: ConsumerSCOPE Quarterly).


Black & Decker is the UK's most popular power tool brand with a 36% market share (Source: ConsumerSCOPE). Furthermore, it is the biggest manufacturer of power tools in the world with an unsurpassed global distribution network. It is one of the leading manufacturers of lawn and garden power tools, power tool accessories and handheld vacuum cleaners. This is reflected in the fact that eight out of ten households in the UK own a minimum of one Black & Decker product.

The brand continues to place emphasis on the importance of design, research and development. This has led to Black & Decker receiving numerous awards with special recognition for the Quattro Multi-tool as one of its best selling tools. In 1999 the product was awarded Millennium Product status by the Design Council.

As well as introducing new tools to the market place, old favourites from its range are updated to meet ever-increasing consumer demands. Black & Decker was the first company to develop cordless tools and the classic Workmate¨ Workbench


Black & Decker began life in 1910, when two young Americans, Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker formed their own manufacturing company. To raise the initial capital needed for their fledgling enterprise, Duncan Black sold his treasured Maxewell-Briscoe car, whilst Alonzo Decker borrowed an equal sum.

With their US$1200 investment they leased premises in Baltimore, and began contract machine work.

The early Black & Decker products ranged from equipment for the US mint, to bottle capping machinery. In 1914 the first hand-held power drill was patented with its pistol grip, trigger switch and universal motor. Black & Decker had now begun to produce the goods for which it would subsequently become world-renowned. Early successes such as this, and the Lectroflator -- an electric air compressor used to inflate tyres -- pushed sales to above US$1million, which enabled the company to expand. Service centres were opened in Boston and New York and a new factory was built in Towson, Maryland, to cope with the phenomenal growth. In 1922 another milestone was reached when the first subsidiary outside the US was formed in Canada. And in 1928 the first factory was built in the UK, in Slough. This factory produced a range of heavy-duty tools including tappers, screwdrivers and grinders. The outbreak of World War II proved a testing time for the new UK business, though it aided the general war effort by manufacturing armaments from its factories. The scarcity of metals at the time forced a rethink in the design of its tools. Products were soon being manufactured with plastic housings.

In 1946, it came to Black & Decker's attention that industrial tools were going missing -- often ending up in workers' homes. This alerted Black & Decker to the possibility of creating a home tools market. The company decided to make tools specifically aimed at this market -- a major decision that was to change the face of the company and created what we now know as the DIY market. This move was to form its core business for the next 50 years.

The extraordinary growth in sales that this decision prompted, ensured continuous expansion. By 1957, sales had exceeded £25 million.

The 1960s saw further expansion, with the opening of new branches in Scandinavia as well as in the UK, and the opening of new headquarters in Maidenhead.

At the end of the 1960s, Black & Decker turned its hand to 'space development' in association with the National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA). Black & Decker devised a cordless zero-torque space tool, used on the Gemini project, and in the early 1970s, a Black & Decker moon drill was used to remove core samples from the lunar surface.

Black & Decker has launched a variety of innovative new products over recent years. This includes the award winning Mouse. This is a compact decorating and sanding tool which sands down a variety of surfaces including paint and varnish. It also cleans and polishes metal and plastic surfaces, as well as being used for rust removal.

In summer 2000 the Scorpion powered hand saw was added to the Black & Decker sawing range. Its launch made a traditionally hard working tool, into a safe and efficient one with three blades for different sawing needs.

In Spring 2003, the popular Quattro Multi-tool was relaunched. The 14.4V Quattro Multi-tool is an all-in-one answer to the four key DIY tasks -- drilling, sanding, screwdriving and jigsawing -- achieved with its interchangeable heads. With its soft grip handle and powerful battery pack, the Quattro¨ Multi-tool is one of the most successful and easy to use power tools on the DIY market.


Black & Decker produces a wide range of tools and products for the home and garden. Black & Decker's power tools range includes cordless drills, jigsaws and sanders. This range is broken down to target three groups of consumers. The Jade range is the entry price point range -- affordable but well specified. The Silver & Black range is known as the easiDIYª range; aimed at first time DIYers, products are lightweight and have features which aim to make tasks as easy as possible. The Intense Orange range is the premium range of tools, designed with the more confident user in mind. Products are highly specified with many features.

The Workmate Workbench, is a classic piece of equipment that needs no introduction. It is still the ultimate accessory for all serious DIYers.

In its garden range Black & Decker supplies a range of equipment including mowers, trimmers, shredders, chainsaws and the multi purpose Mastervac Garden Vac. 2003 saw the development of a new innovative Hedge trimmer that has a rotating handle for greater reach.

For the home, Black & Decker produces a range of Dustbuster, hand held vacuum cleaners. 50 million Dustbuster are sold worldwide each year, and the range continues to find new audiences due to consistent improvements in power, attachments and colour.

Dustbuster Plus 3 in 1 Cordless Vac is the latest innovation which combines a handheld cordless cleaner and a upright vacuum cleaner to provide the user with flexibility when cleaning.

In 2002 Black & Decker relaunched the brand with a new branding statement, make it your own home with new packaging and a new advertising strategy. The move was instigated following a research and development programme.

Since its conception Black & Decker has continued to introduce stylish, effective, and easy-to-use equipment to the marketplace with constant design and product development playing a key role.

Recent developments

Product innovation and development is at the heart of the Black & Decker brand. New products include the Sandstorm, a multi-purpose sanding and decorating tool. Features include a range of separate bases to cope with a variety of tasks, as well as a finger sanding attachment which enables the user to sand difficult to reach places. It also has a built in dust extractor.

Another significant development to the brands range is the Esprit Cordless Drill-Screwdriver. Part of the easiDIY range, it is suitable for tackling many tasks. Features include its 1801/4 rotating head (giving five different drilling positions from 01/4-1801/4) a pull down button to allow the quick release of the drill head, as well as an integrated battery which makes the tool more compact and balanced.


One of Black & Decker's earliest examples of television advertising was in 1928. A specially fitted out six-person monoplane was used as a flying showroom to demonstrate how Black & Decker power tools could be used in the reconditioning of aircraft engines.

The company's first network television advert came in 1955 with a series of ads for its power tool range. Since then, Black & Decker has used a combination of television advertising, in-store promotions and publicity campaigns to keep in touch and lead the way with consumer requirements.

A key time in Black & Decker's promotional strategy is the run up to Christmas. It is important to maximise sales around this time, with an estimated 11% of all Christmas presents in the UK being power tools. For Christmas 2002, Black & Decker's TV advertising showed DIY tasks being successful undertaken using Black & Decker tools. And the ads were spiced up with humorous touches.

To assist first time buyers, Black & Decker launched a number of in-store promotional catalogues which explain the benefits of the tools in layman's terms, using easy-to-understand dialogue that avoids clumsy and confusing technical dialogue. This user-friendly approach is reinforced by a series of detailed illustrations and graphics. In the UK, the promotion of Black & Decker products also relies on in-store demonstrations, videos and direct email marketing campaigns. This is backed up with give-aways and tried and tested features in consumer and national media.

Brand values

Black & Decker prides itself on being able to offer innovative products and value for money, whilst maintaining high quality.

With the improvement in imported products, Black & Decker has increased its strong hold over the rest of the market by developing its multi-functional tools range. As well as offering quality and innovative tools, Black & Decker guarantees to give reassurance to the most nervous customers.

Being a visionary, customer focused brand, Black & Decker aims to ensure that its products are both exciting and challenging, but remain the best tools for the job.

Things you didn't know

  • Power tools account for 11% of all Christmas presents, with household powered tools accounting for 9%.

  • The Black & Decker Workmate the multi-purpose workbench was invented by Ron Hickman, designer of the Lotus Elan sports car, in 1961.

  • Black & Decker research has found that a large percentage of the younger generation solve their DIY problems by getting their dads to do the work for them -- rather than tackling jobs themselves.

  • Despite overall growth in the market, male and female roles have remained largely unchanged. At no point in the last five years has the percentage of women to men using tools exceeded 15%.

    © 2003 Superbrands Ltd