Milwaukee tools at Lowe’s

Milwaukee is a popular brand of power tools, often used by professionals and one of the biggest rivals of DeWalt. Meanwhile, Lowe’s is the second largest home improvement store chain in North America. It would be natural to expect Lowe’s to carry Milwaukee tools. But the relationship between Lowe’s and Milwaukee is complicated.

Lowe’s sells a brand of cart and dolly called Milwaukee that has no connection to Milwaukee power tools. Lowe’s hasn’t sold Milwaukee power tools since 2007, and Milwaukee’s parent company’s relationship with Home Depot makes it unlikely that situation will change any time soon.

But I saw Milwaukee tools at Lowe’s just yesterday!

Milwaukee tools at Lowe's
Google didn’t make a mistake and your eyes didn’t fool you. But these Milwaukee products aren’t the same ones you find at Home Depot.

Lowe’s doesn’t carry Milwaukee power tools like the famous Sawzall reciprocating saw and their drills and other saws. Lowe’s does carry a brand of dolly and hand truck called Milwaukee. But the Milwaukee hand trucks and dollies are not related to the Milwaukee power tools or hand tools that you find at Lowe’s competitor Home Depot.

Milwaukee hand trucks and dollies are made by The Gleason Companies. The Gleason Companies have no connection whatsoever to the Milwaukee power tools and hand tools. Since they make significantly different types of tools, it’s possible for the two of them to use the Milwaukee name without necessarily infringing on each other’s trademarks, as long as they’re careful. They have about seven decades of practice.

If you look closely at the logo on the Milwaukee products at Lowe’s, you’ll see the styling on the logo is rather different. Notably, it lacks the lightning bolt, the font is smooth and rounded rather than sharp, and the text isn’t at a 30-degree angle. That’s because it’s a different company’s trademark and trying to evoke a different feeling.

Why doesn’t Lowe’s sell Milwaukee tools?

It’s entirely possible you or someone you know may remember seeing Milwaukee tools in Lowe’s stores. In September 2006, the two companies reached an agreement to sell Milwaukee power tools. And Lowe’s did indeed carry Milwaukee products in 2007. But at the end of the agreement, the two companies did not extend it into 2008, let alone beyond. And that’s why the closest store to you that sells power tools may not necessarily carry Milwaukee today.

You may sometimes see reports of someone spotting the odd Milwaukee product at Lowe’s with the usual explanation being it must be old inventory. But it’s unlikely that Lowe’s has any old inventory from 2007 still laying around, as Lowe’s is famous for blowing out inventory at the end of every year to make way for what’s new. Any Milwaukee leftovers would have sold soon after the agreement ended. It’s more likely they’re spotting a Milwaukee-branded hand truck, which, incidentally, has a red-and-black color scheme not at all unlike a Milwaukee power tool, and jumping to conclusions. It’s an easy mistake to make.

You may have also heard of lingering bad blood between Lowe’s and Milwaukee. In 2010, Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation sued Lowe’s for $1.2 million over an inventory dispute, where Milwaukee stated Lowe’s issued itself payment credits that were invalid, and this legal dispute is frequently cited as the reason why Lowe’s doesn’t carry Milwaukee.

And there’s more to it than that. Milwaukee’s parent company is a conglomerate named Techtronic Industries, or TTI. TTI sued Lowe’s for infringing on more than 200 of its patents more recently, in May 2022. TTI cited its relationship with Home Depot in the suit.

The TTI connection is the element of the business relationship between Milwaukee and Lowe’s I don’t see many people talking about.

Lowe’s carries many brands but few manufacturers

No Milwaukee tools at Lowe's
The relationship between Lowe’s and the maker of Milwaukee power tools is a tangled web of competitors. And neither company has much incentive right now to shake things up by partnering with each other.

Both Lowe’s and Home Depot carry 7 or 8 different brands of power tools. Both of them carry Black and Decker and DeWalt. But both of them carry brands the others don’t. Lowe’s carries Metabo HPT and Bosch and Home Depot carries Makita. Lowe’s carries Skil and Home Depot carries Milwaukee.

There is a method to the madness. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot carry some brands made by Stanley Black and Decker. And all of the power tool brands the two companies have in common are produced by Stanley Black and Decker.

Each of them also carry power tools made by two or three other companies. And that accounts for why both stores carry several brands that the other doesn’t. Skil, Flex, and Kobalt tools sold at Lowe’s are made by Chervon. So are the popular Ego lawn mowers. Ryobi, Ridgid, and Milwaukee tools sold at Home Depot are made by TTI. The explanation for much of the mismatch of brands is a lack of Chervon-made products at Home Depot, and a lack of TTI-made products at Lowe’s. And in the case of Ryobi, there’s even an exclusive retailer agreement involved.

The tangled web of power tools

It’s a bit of a tangled web of competitors, but TTI would risk upsetting Home Depot if they resumed selling Milwaukee tools at Lowe’s. Likewise, Lowe’s would risk upsetting Chervon if they resumed selling Milwaukee tools. Besides, it wasn’t long ago that Lowe’s started selling Chervon-manufactured Flex power tools to help compensate for not having Milwaukee.

And since Stanley Black and Decker sells to everyone, having a tight relationship with Chervon helps Lowe’s. Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison is keenly aware of this, having spent 12 years as a vice president at Home Depot where he observed his former employer’s tight relationship with Milwaukee parent TTI.

Lowe’s not carrying Milwaukee tools is just one part of a more complicated relationship involving four or, arguably, five companies in total.

Rumors come and go regarding Milwaukee tools at Lowe’s, but I think they are either clickbait or a case of mistaken identity. Lowe’s and TTI aren’t good friends anyway. Stanley Black and Decker doesn’t want Milwaukee tools at Lowe’s because it would cut into DeWalt sales. Chervon doesn’t want Lowe’s getting cozy with TTI. And TTI doesn’t want to give Home Depot any reason to cozy up with Chervon and start carrying Ego lawn mowers, because electric lawn mowers are huge sellers right now.

So there’s more to the story than a 1.2 million dollar invoice disagreement from a long time ago. It’s true that things didn’t work out between Milwaukee and Lowe’s in 2007. But industry consolidation in the ensuing years made things more complicated. I hesitate to say conspiracy, but there’s a balance between the brands the two stores carries and it’s working well enough for all involved that there’s little reason for any of them to shake things up.

When did Lowe’s stop selling Milwaukee tools?

The agreement between Lowe’s and TTI to sell Milwaukee tools ended at the end of 2007, though some leftover inventory may have lingered into 2008 and the presence of Milwaukee hand trucks certainly makes the exact end date less clear.

Where can you buy Milwaukee tools?

While you can indeed buy a Milwaukee hand truck or moving dolly at Lowe’s, that doesn’t mean you can expect to be able to walk in and buy a Milwaukee Sawzall or even a set of Milwaukee screwdrivers at Lowe’s any time soon. Home Depot is the largest rival hardware store that carries Milwaukee tools, but they aren’t the only one.

Some local hardware stores that sell Milwaukee tools include Ace Hardware, Do It Best, Northern Tool, and Rural King, among others. The Milwaukee website cited 27 different distributors at the time of this writing. Not all stores carry the full product line, of course. You can also buy  them online from Amazon and Walmart.

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2 thoughts on “Milwaukee tools at Lowe’s

  • March 29, 2023 at 8:48 am

    I bought into the DeWalt 20v ecosystem about 4 years ago and have been very happy with it. I fill in the gaps using some Ryobi tools with a DeWalt battery to Ryobi adapter by Badapter and really like what I have today. It’s basically been the perfect system for my use cases. I was between Milwaukee and DeWalt, looking at reviews and doing cost-benefit analysis between the two on a scratchpad for which I ended up with DeWalt. No regrets. If I were into the plumbing trade, I think Milwaukee would have served me better but I only do light plumbing activities.

    Nice article and thanks!

    • April 1, 2023 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks! I agree, it’s a close call between DeWalt and Milwaukee. Since the two stores closest to me do sell both, that makes it a little tougher. Generally speaking I’d say most consumers are better off going DeWalt since you can buy their batteries at stores that don’t sell Milwaukee. The consumables like the drill bits and blades can typically make up any difference between two nearly comparable lines of tools.

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