The durability and limited innovation of most hand tools limits replacement and upgrade sales, especially in the more price-sensitive consumer market. The COVID-19 pandemic will also affect demand. While construction and manufacturing activity are expected to rebound quickly in 2021 as stay-at-home measures are lifted, demand levels will continue to lag through 2024 as markets normalize.
However, opportunities exist in the development of tools with features that encourage upgrades, including improved ergonomics, or with marketing tactics aimed at impulse purchases, gift-giving occasions, or customers who are buying other supplies for a specialized project.
The professional market for hand tools is expected to account for 66% of gains through 2024. Professional sales dominate the hand tool market, accounting for 68% of demand in 2019, as professional end users are both more willing to pay a premium for higher quality tools and use and replace tools more frequently than consumers:
US production of hand tools is expected to grow through 2024 in a reversal of trends seen during the 2014-2019 period. However, the trade deficit is still projected to expand given the widespread appeal of low-cost imports compared to products made in the US. While the higher cost of US-made products outweighs their performance advantages for some, tariffs on select hand tools from China, the largest foreign supplier of these products to the US, are mitigating the pricing advantage of imports to an extent. Additionally, exports and domestic shipments will continue to be supported by demand for US-made hand tools, which benefit from their international reputation for quality.
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a mixed but ultimately adverse impact on hand tool demand, with lockdown measures hindering professional sales but supporting consumer demand as more participate in DIY activities while staying home. For instance, despite record unemployment and dampened consumer spending, consumer hand tool sales will be bolstered by a near-term surge in DIY improvements and repairs among self-isolating homeowners. The most significant impacts of the pandemic are expected in 2020 and 2021, as activity in construction, manufacturing, and automotive aftermarket sectors remains below pre-pandemic levels due to global supply chain disruptions and local efforts to curb spread of the virus.