Who says real women don't use pretty tools? Joni Eiding-Bernard does.
Eiding-Bernard, the facilities manager and events planner for the AFL-CIO of Philadelphia, owns a set of pink tools, and she's proud of it. She bought the 16-piece kit, which includes screwdrivers and other standards, a few years ago to augment her collection of "regular" tools.
Why pink? For one thing, it ensures that her husband won't go borrowing from her toolbox.
"It was a good kit with all the basics. It was pretty. They were pink. And my husband won't touch them," Eiding-Bernard said.
She also liked that her purchase supported a charity for breast-cancer research, she said. But the husband-repellent aspect is a good thing, too, because when she started buying tools several years ago, Eiding-Bernard found that her husband, Jim, liked to use them.
"I'd go looking for something and it would be missing from my toolbox, and I'd find it around the house or with his stuff," she said.
A spokeswoman for Apollo Precision Tools, which makes a large assortment of pink tool kits, said the company constantly got reorders from its major retailers. Apollo kits, ranging from a four-piece stubby set for $12.99 to 135 pieces for $44.99, can be found in stores such as Target, Sears, Kohl's, Kmart, and Ace Hardware.
"We have a 140-page catalog with thousands of items, and our pink items are among our top 10 sellers. Of all the tool kits we sell, the pink ones we offer are our No. 1 and No. 2 sellers," Schafer said. "The feedback that we get is husbands buy them for their wives, people get them for girls going to college and for housewarming gifts, women buy them for themselves, and people like that they support a charity."
Schafer didn't have exact sales figures, but said the company donates between 25 cents and $3 for each pink product sold to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in New York. Last year, the company donated $80,000, she said.
Pretty doesn't have to mean pink, of course.
Home-improvement expert Barbara Kavovit, a former construction company owner, has just launched a line of orchid-purple tools with hardware giant Stanley Tools. The Stanley/Barbara's Way line, $4 to $20 per item, will be available in Wal-Mart stores nationwide by Nov. 1.
The appeal, she said, goes beyond pretty colors.
"Women don't want their husband's tools. They want their own, a set of tools that function and are reliable. And, yes, they want things that look good," said Kavovit, who has written several books, has been featured in major magazines, and is a frequent home-repair expert on national shows like Fox and Friends, Today, and Good Morning America.
Kavovit's Stanley/Barbara's Way line includes instructions for using the tools for household fix-it projects and women-friendly features such as lighter weights and smaller grips, she added.
"It's not just about a tool. It's about accomplishing goals in the home," Kavovit said. "There's no point in enticing a woman to buy a hammer if you're not going to give her the complete set of tools, including instructions, to accomplish her goal."
Not just home-improvement experts are contributing products. Fashion designer Cynthia Rowley has hopped on the trend, too, with tools decorated with flowers and colorful patterns.
They are sold on Rowley's website, www.cynthiarowley.com, as part of Rowley's Genuine Article line. They include basic hardware: a hammer, needle-nose pliers, a slotted screwdriver, a staple gun, and, for those who want a chic alternative to the traditional toolbox, a canvas tool bag.
Rowley is a firm believer, she said, that a set of tools is a girl's best friend.
"Every home should have a fully equipped toolbox. In the same way you should be able to sew on a button, you should be able to use tools," Rowley said, adding that she keeps a set in her drawer at work and in her kitchen.
Of course, not everyone is on the pretty-tools bandwagon.
"There are a lot of women who come in that maybe go for certain brands, but I wouldn't say it's about color or looks. It's whatever it is they need to complete the job," said Cathy Harrison, specialty assistant store manager of Home Depot's Port Richmond store. "The main thing, I think, is they just want a tool that will do the job."
Jeannie Aponte, a kitchen designer at the Port Richmond store, said serious do-it-yourselfers couldn't care less how their tools looked.
"Most of the women that I've seen here at the store who are do-it-yourselfers just want durability, something that's going to last and that's going to work," she said. "I've got lots of tools. None of them are nice colors or have flowers or any of that stuff. I just want good tools."
But Kavovit said there was no reason that tools couldn't be functional and look good.
"Look, I'm not telling women to go out and build a deck with my tool kit. But I am telling them that every woman, whether you own or rent, no matter if you're married, single, divorced, whatever, should have their own set of tools," Kavovit said. "You don't want to rely on anybody. Be a self-sufficient, independent woman and have your own set of tools.