/ Home & Energy

Gardening tools using confusing branding

Pruning a tree

If you buy a branded item you expect it to be made by that brand, right? Not necessarily, as we found out when we scratched the surface of some top gardening tools and discovered that all’s not what it may seem…

American investor Warren Buffet said it can take 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it.

So I was surprised to learn that a couple of famous British brands have decided to risk their reputation by allowing products they haven’t made to be sold bearing their name.

What’s in a name?

Two big names in gardening tools – Spear & Jackson and Qualcast – have both sold licences to the Home Retail Group (Argos and Homebase).

This means that Argos and Homebase can use these prestigious brand names on their own-brand products. Not only that, but the companies that own the two brands continue to make and sell their own products through Argos and Homebase.

In other words, if you buy, for example, a Qualcast mower at Argos or Homebase, it may not be made by Qualcast. In fact Qualcast may not have had anything to do with the product – but it will bear its name.

Branding could mislead buyers

We only discovered this practice when we were testing a new Qualcast Lawn Rake for the November issue of Which? Gardening.

We discovered that the machine isn’t manufactured by Qualcast but is sourced and supplied by the Home Retail Group for Argos and Homebase. But to all intents and purposes it looks like a Qualcast product – it says Qualcast on the box, and when you ring the customer helpline you’re welcomed to Qualcast Technical Support. It’s not clear at any point that you’re buying a Home Retail Group product.

We also bought two Qualcast-branded mowers from Homebase, one manufactured by Bosch and one made by the Home Retail Group. We thought both products looked very similar – to the untrained eye it would be impossible to tell which one is genuinely made by Bosch.

Think before you buy

While others may be concerned about the risk to the Qualcast and Spear & Jackson brands, here at Which? we’re more concerned with how this could mislead consumers.

We know that many people buy products based on the strength of the brand in the media or their own experience of buying and using a branded product previously.

Do you feel that this practice could mislead you into buying one of these ‘branded’ products? Do you care? Maybe you’ve bought one of these products, only to discover later it’s not what you thought it was.


Many thanks for the tips and good wishes Malcolm and Duncan. Option 1 sounds the more durable remedy for fixing the rakes I think Duncan and I have the WD 40 at the ready Malcolm!

dieseltaylor says:
19 May 2016

I was thinking of a quick description for these “brands” and ersatz came to mind as perhaps the word for the second-rate which is becoming so common.

Incidentally I was looking at a French consumer site on mixers and was struck at the attention to construction.
” Endurance
Accessories, bowls and lids spend 50 times in a dishwasher on a program Eco 50 ° C with detergent, liquid rinse and salt. Objective: To evaluate their aging as a result of assaults during the washing machine (thermal shock effects of detergent …). Hundreds of hours cycles with a load have evaluated the aging moteur.

Manufacturing is subject to evaluation by experts, to ensure that the robots have a good shelf life. The various components are examined for strength and assembly of parts, strength of the screen printing, stability of the device, any vibration, joint strength, resistance and setting selectors, use the keys to quotidien”

Incidentally buying garden machines, as in electrics, is cheapest in early December according to a French survey on their big box stores.

Peter Thomas says:
11 June 2016

I have just purchased a brand new qualcast product, to find a faulty item on assembly, as it said on the book to contact them on a certain telephone number, which had changed when I rang, I used the new number spoke to a gentleman who said they would replace the part if I sent a copy of the receipt in response to an email I would receive from them. The email never arrived. A week or so later I contacted them through their web site and sent a copy of the receipt. They replied saying they only support products purchased through Argos & Homebase. I asked why was I told they would replace if I sent a copy of my invoice to them. They replied, that I said it was purchased from homebase when I originally rang, I did not I have now asked for a verbal copy of the transcript . They are telling untruths. I have also asked why I had no response to my telephone call. I have lost faith in Qualcast and cancelled the transaction with Paypal. Sanli looks good…


Yes Peter -Home Retail Group are licensing the “Qualcast ” name from Bosch which now are not the top quality company they used to be they have gone “downmarket ” . If it is petrol it will be made by German company Einhell (UK) or if not could be made by various manufacturers. Allett based in England keep the quality products going

Derek Swan says:
27 April 2017

I bought what I thought was a Qualcast corded hover mower model no. MEH1533 from Argos about 18 months ago.
I only discovered it wasn’t when the on /off switch deadman’s handles both cracked inside the switch box and rendered the machine inoperable.
I ordered two Qualcast replacement handles but when I came to fit them they were different.
The broken handles were made of very flimsy plastic which had gone brittle with age and cracked.
The genuine handles were much more robust but unfortunately would not fit my machine.
When I queried this difference with Argos I was informed that their machines are made in China under licence from Qualcast.
OK if that is how you choose to run their business, so be it, could they please supply me with two replacement handles for my machine. They could not and even after many emails back and forth, including photographic evidence of the area where the handles had failed, are still saying that it is not possible. They want me to prove that these handles are not fit for purpose before they will offer me any kind of customer support.
I am just very relieved that I did not buy a £2000 mower or television or anything from them for that matter.
It is very much a case of buyer beware and everyone should be made aware of this type of misleading marketing.

[Sorry, your comment has been edited to align with our Community Guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]


Derek China has a government policy of not allowing faulty goods made in China to be returned to the Chinese mainland thats why you get opposition from shops to “repair them ” but maybe are offered some sort of compensation ( if you are lucky ) Just more evidence of the “Land of Built to a Price ” where the manufacturers are NOT held legally liable for their products but the suppliers are. “Great” law isn’t it ? It makes you shiver when you think of the fact they will be building nuclear power stations for this country , will it be the case only the suppliers will be liable for a meltdown ? Now where are my Iodine tablets ?

Bigbob says:
20 April 2018

I was looking at the ARGOS special offer for McGregor garden hover mower and grass strimmer. But I cannot find any McGregor reviews or comments on Which; and spare parts seem “generic” and may not fit. The only McGregor I can find on the internet search seems to be in NewZealand? Does anyone know anything about these machines/Company?


Bob , that NZ website only does small garden items , there is a company in northern England that manufacture spares for many brands including McGregor -ALM Manufacturing . From intense checking on the web I have found – “the McGregor Company ” – equipment manufacturing division – Washington USA it deals in industrial farming but doesnt actually advertise lawnmowers . Mc Gregor is a wide ranging name in the USA in this field and yes there are companies selling lawnmowers there but getting to the source is not so easy . Its possible that the big company “outsources ” small garden products -IE- Badge Engineering ” if it does I would be very wary of the small products but I cannot pin it down to the actual company MAKING them although on the industrial scale they have a good reputation. By the way that NZ company you clicked onto now has your location , one of my apps asked me if I would allow the NZ company to access my location —I refused and it knocked me off the webpage – NICE !!!