Jim Loree has a big data point that gives him a big hammer in his efforts to transform Stanley Black & Decker for the new economy: A typical lawn session with a gas-powered leaf blower emits as much carbon dioxide and other toxic gases as driving a Toyota Camry for 1,100 miles.
That comparison alone gives the CEO of the diversified manufacturer based in New Britain, Connecticut, a powerful argument for his strategy of heavily expanding into electrified mowers, power washers and other outdoor products. Loree underscored his commitment to the electric economy in August when his company finalized its purchase of the 80% of MTD Holdings it didn’t own, greatly expanding Stanley Black & Decker’s stake in outdoor-equipment categories that he believes will be leaving gasoline power behind.
“Emissions are very substantial, and there’s very little emissions control,” Loree told Chief Executive. “Outdoor power equipment is going ot migrate largely away from gas power including riding mowers, zero-turn mowers and push mowers, and smaller products – and half of smaller products already are electric.
“The benefits of electrification are phenomenal, even beyond the feel-good benefits. Take noise reduction: Outdoor power products emit north of 100 decibels, and electric ones can bring it down to 70 decibels.”
At the same time, Loree is dealing with a number of immediate issues that are vexing many American manufacturing CEOs. “We manage volatile variables all the time,” he said. “It’s what you have to do in the 2020s. It’s like no other era, but you have to roll with the punches and keep managing growth, inventories and cash flow.”
Here’s how the leader of the $15-billion company views three of the major short-term issues:
• Supply chain: Loree took some strategic steps to ensure that the company will have the battery-cell supply it needs to support growth in electrified products, including deals with major battery suppliers in South Korea. Adequate supplies of semiconductor chips will be “tighter,” he said, but Stanley Black & Decker is “good” on that front for the rest of 2021 and to support as much as 25% growth in 2022. “So the strategic issues,” he said, “are relatively manageable.”
Day to day and week to week, however, Stanley Black & Decker has been running into the same kinds of problems being encountered by many American manufacturers. The pandemic in general has driven a chaotic situation in the supply chain,” Loree said. “It’s added about two weeks to our supply from Asia. It’s a very intensive management issue, because demand is off-the-charts good, and supply is the challenge – things outside our control.”
He said a silver lining is “that over the last couple of years we have developed really good visibility into our supply chain. We know where things are, even if they’re delayed.”
• Inflation: The scourge from the last century has returned “with many of these shortages and delays and premium freight charges,” he said. “And no doubt it’s here for an extended period of time. A lot of these issue won’t resolve themselves overnight, and even when they do, we’ll be in a cycle where we have had labor shortages driving labor inflation, material shortages driving materials inflation, a strong level of economic growth, and demand during the pandemic financed by massive public investments.
“But we do have pricing power. For the first time in our history, we’re recovering 100% of our inflation with our own price increases.”
• Higher taxes: “Am I concerned about taxes? Yes, because the corporate tax rate in America today already is not overly competitive. There was a big improvement in competitiveness under [President Trump] but it looks by every indication that tax rates are going up.
“But by the same token, we are also very much looking forward to massive infrastructure investments, which our company needs and which will inure to [the company’s] benefit.”
As he manages such dynamics, Loree also has been making signature bets to move Stanley Black & Decker into the future since becoming CEO five years ago, after having joined Stanley Black & Decker as CFO in 1999. His big investment in outdoor equipment and electrification is typical.
Other gambits have included Loree’s purchase of the iconic Craftsman tool brand from the failing Sears Roebuck retailing empire for $900 million, working to revive the Black & Decker brand via e-commerce and introducing a new brand, Reviva, made from recycled plastics.
“It’s an unprecedented moment in my tenure and career,” he said. “But it’s something Stanley Black & Decker can manage.”