Gardner Bender brand products include electrical tools, voltage testers and wire management products continuously found along the electrical aisle of premier stores like Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe‘s, Menards and True Value. Aside from professional electricians, “do-it-yourselfers” also employ these products when doing projects around the home such as installing a ceiling fan or wiring surround sound systems.
A Long History
The company has a long history, starting as the brainchild of Jim Gardner, a master mechanic in a Milwaukee aluminum can plant who spent his free time as an inventor. In 1959, after watching the electricians at his plant struggle with an inferior device, Gardner invented an aluminum pipe bender so promising that he decided to manufacture it himself.
With the bender as his lead product, Gardner added fish tape (for pulling wire through conduit), wire connectors, hand tools, and a host of other electrical specialties. Targeting do-it-yourselfers as well as professional electricians, Gardner Bender sold its products through national hardware store chains, including Ace and True Value, and then through “big box” retailers like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menard’s. Sales of the Milwaukee based firm reached $1 million in 1975 and $25 million in 1988, when Applied Power purchased the company.
Forward Momentum: Fivefold Increase of Sales within a Decade
At the time of the acquisition, Gardner Bender sold hundreds of different products, from wire nuts to lineman’s pliers, through 20,000 separate consumer outlets. Together they provided “the perfect solution to all of your wire connecting, cutting, stripping, testing, fastening, crimping, wire fishing, conduit bending, grounding and replacement switch needs.” There was very little overlap with Applied Power’s standard lines, and the retail distribution channel was utterly foreign, but Gardner Bender became a full-fledged division of its new parent. Under Ted Lecher, the gifted executive who remained president after the acquisition, the business continued to prosper. Combining internal growth with strategic acquisitions, Gardner Bender increased its sales fivefold within a decade and provided a great deal of Applied Power’s forward momentum.
Solid Profit Margins Continue
In January 2000, Applied Power was split into two separate public companies, with Gardner Bender becoming part of the Actuant Corporation. Gardner Bender remained an entrenched leader in their market with solid profit margins, high barriers to entry, global sales networks and, most important, excellent cash flow. In terms of products offered, the division led by Gardner Bender showed the most dramatic growth, increasing the number of items in its line-up to over ten thousand by 2000. Once confined largely to the do-it-yourself electrical market, the division was serving automotive and marine customers as well. In 2008, Actuant began to describe itself as an industrial company with four major segments. Gardner Bender became the foundation of the Electrical segment. On December 13, 2013, Sentinel Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in promising, lower middle market companies, announced the closing of its acquisition of Power Products, the electrical segment of Actuant Corporation.
Gardner Bender Today
Today, Gardner Bender branded electrical tools, voltage testers, wire management products and professional equipment are a mainstay with electrical contractors. Gardner Bender's approach of offering superior quality at an affordable price makes us an attractive choice for those who prefer putting more money in their pockets than into the job. In addition, Gardner Bender offers industry leading innovation, offering a solution-based approach with product designs and features based on end-user feedback. We appreciate you taking the time to visit our website and we look forward to serving you for years to come.