Home Depot – After early pandemic layoffs, CT giant Stanley Black & Decker adding jobs amid DIY boom
It’s the tried-and-true maxim for the do-it-yourself enthusiast — “measure twice, cut once.”
But the CEO of Connecticut tool giant Stanley Black & Decker suggested he may have erred in cutting too many jobs in haste last year after his initial read of the pandemic economy failed to anticipate a surprise boom in purchases by people stuck at home.
After making permanent 1,000 job cuts last year and putting an unspecified number of temporary workers and external contractors on hiatus, Stanley Black & Decker now lists 800 job openings in the United States.
CEO Jim Loree put a $1 billion restructuring program in place at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to have Stanley Black & Decker pivot to a surge in business Loree says he did not see coming. That left the New Britain-based company with a labor shortage.
Among Connecticut’s best-known and oldest product companies, Stanley Black & Decker brands include Craftsman, which it bought four years ago from bankrupt Sears. In addition to its namesake, mainstay brands, the company owns several more that are familiar names lining the aisles of Lowe’s, Home Depot and hardware stores, including Bostitch, DeWalt, Irwin and Mac Tools.
Stanley Back & Decker also sells security systems for building access and hospitals — its Hugs system helps hospital staff keep an eye on babies in their care — and industrial products like fasteners used in the manufacturing of vehicles or attachments for heavy equipment used in demolition.
Loree set the layoffs in motion last April after the pandemic’s initial wrecking ball swung through the economy. While many parts of the retail economy absorbed a massive hit, home improvement stores remained healthy — Home Depot sales was up 18 percent in the first nine months of 2020 and Lowe’s enjoyed a 23 percent surge.
“We were hunkered down ready to ride out the storm — and then suddenly in the last week of April and on into the summer months, an abrupt and very-positive phenomenon emerged in the tools business,” Loree said Thursday morning on a conference call. “With so many people at home and with the home being the focal point … the number of projects and the number of people doing projects — and doing projects for the first time — is at record levels.”
Stanley Black & Decker rode that boom in the second half of the year, as holiday-season revenue was up 20 percent from a year earlier to lift the company to a 1 percent gain for the year to $14.5 billion. Profits totaled $1.2 billion, a 27 percent increase from 2019 and eclipsing slightly its previous record earnings in 2017.
The company expects the strong sales to continue through at least January, as retailers replenish warehouses from holiday sales and homeowners look ahead to the spring lawn and garden season.
“Once people discover DIY, it tends to be somewhat addictive,” Loree said Thursday. “It is a secular shift in my opinion — I think the home [improvement] center CEOs would agree with that.”
That surge has yet to result in a full rebound in Stanley Black & Decker hiring, however. The company reported a full-time workforce entering this year of about 53,000 people, down from close to 59,400 total jobs it cited in its 2020 annual report, about 17,600 of those jobs in the United States.
In an email response, Stanley spokesperson Debora Raymond said the 53,000 figure reported Thursday reflects full-time employees only, omitting external contractors and temporary workers included in the 2020 annual report’s numbers which she was unable to update immediately.
She noted Loree’s comments last July of the company’s plans to return 9,300 employees to a full work schedule by October, while transferring about 1,000 others to “permanent reduction status.”
Raymond did not say how many people Stanley Black & Decker currently employs in Connecticut. But 60 of the company’s 800 U.S. job openings are based in its home state versus 140 in Maryland, where Black & Decker was based prior to its 2010 merger with The Stanley Works.
In addition to its New Britain headquarters, where it makes tape measures among other products, Stanley Black & Decker is hiring at locations in Danbury, Farmington and Southington. Many of those jobs and openings nationally are labeled as virtual as a result of pandemic office limitations.
Later this year, the company plans to add a big Craftsman manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, Texas, projected to employ 500 people and with another in the works for Mexico under a “make where you sell” philosophy. President Joe Biden issued an executive order this week limiting the federal agency purchases of products made in other countries, and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., signaled his intent to revive “buy American” legislation he has sought to put in place in prior years.
Between 2015 and 2019, Black & Decker increased its U.S. manufacturing workforce by 40 percent, with only a dozen of its 270 open jobs currently categorized under manufacturing located in other countries.
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