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Steel focus Channellock: doing what it does best for 125 years.

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CHANNELLOCK HAS BEEN A household name for three-quarters of a century, and the average consumer likely can't separate the brand name from the tongue-and-groove pliers that made the name famous. Call it good innovation, good marketing, or both, Channellock has planted its feet squarely in the pliers industry. This year it celebrates 125 years of making top-quality hand tools. A business that began with a man in a horse and buggy selling tools along a railroad line in Pennsylvania has grown to become a sophisticated manufacturer with worldwide distribution.

Today, Channellock's catalog includes a wide range of pliers, but the company has remained true to the core values established by its founder, George DeArment, which included putting a high value on the excellence of his product. It's also remained true to the area where the company first began. Every Channellock plier, from the bar of steel to the finished product, is made under one factory roof in Meadville, Penn., not far from where the company was founded.

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Having that made in the USA label was founded on a product is a real boon today, given the trend towards buying domestic. But it shouldn't be what drives customers towards Channellock, says William S. DeArment, company president and CEO. "We don't say, 'it's made in the USA so you have to buy it,'" he says. "We'd rather say, 'we offer a real value, we offer performance, reliability, strength and toughness, and by the way it's made in the USA.'" It's the quality that counts, and that's where the company has built its reputation for the past 125 years.

A Brief History

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George DeArment was a blacksmith in Evansburg, Penn., who, in the spring of 1886, loaded up some farrier tools he had fashioned in a small factory and struck out in his horse and wagon to sell them. Eventually, his operation became known as the Champion Bolt Clipper Company.

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By 1904, the company had moved to Meadville and expanded its product line to include nippers, pincers and open- end wrenches. Soon, his sons Almon W. and J. Howard joined the company and shortly afterwards changed the name to the Champion-DeArment Tool Co.

A major milestone was in 1933 when the company's chief engineer Howard Manning emerged from the factory with the concept of multi-position, tongue-and-groove pliers. Two years later, the company received a patent and trademark rights for the Channellock name.

Throughout the next few years, into the 1950s, company ownership continued on to J. Howard's sons George S. and William A., while they continued to make improvements to their Channellock tool. Sales of pliers grew at a rate of 10 percent a year. In 1963, the company's name changed to Channellock to protect its valuable trademark.

The current generation of ownership took the lead in 1980 when William S. DeArment became company president. The company now employs more than 400 full-time associates and manufacturers more than 100 different sizes and types of pliers and hand tools. They've also kept their focus on their core product.

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"We do what we do best," says DeArment. "We're focused on making pliers. While there are other items in our catalog, which we make with the highest quality in mind, we've never lost our focus on our core product over the years."

Supporting the Independent Retailer

"I've always felt the local hardware store has big advantages over the big boxes because they know their customers better," says DeArment. "They know their markets, they can react faster, they can bring in product in a timely manner, and they're more flexible. There's a lot going on there and a lot of opportunity for the traditional independent dealer."

Independent retailers across the country carry the familiar Channellock pliers. Customers ask for the tool by name because the company has aggressively promoted and protected its brand. And a big part of that promotional campaign has been widespread use of advertising in popular and industry specific publications, including Hardware Retailing, where Channellock has been a continuous advertiser for more than 55 years.

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The company also realizes the value of the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) as a supporter of the independent retailer. Channellock has sponsored NRHA's conventions and was an early member of NRHA's Vendor Partner Program. Recently, it sponsored a research project exploring the recent shop local and buy USA trends.

In the end, DeArment knows the best thing he can give to the independent retailer is a quality product they can sell with confidence. "We work very hard at providing a quality product and work hard at providing customer service," he says. "We do it every day. When we make a good product we offer value to the consuming public, which gives the retailer sell-through and good margins. At the end of the day that is what we all want."

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by Jesse Carleton, jcarleton@nrha.org
COPYRIGHT 2011 National Retail Hardware Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:CHANNELLOCK
Author:Carleton, Jesse
Publication:Hardware Retailing
Date:Jul 1, 2011
Words:846
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