By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan: To buy or not to buy? When you’re shopping at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sears, and Walmart that may be the question. After all, big-box retailers often carry many of the same home items. But
they also offer private-label brands exclusive to their store that vary widely when it comes to price and performance.

ShopSmart’s March 2015 issue features findings from its tests of some of these exclusive products and reveals which ones are great buys and those to avoid.

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“Private-label products at home centers may all look like a good deal, but not all of them are,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Like store-brand foods in the supermarket, some of them are cheap for a reason.”

Below is a list of some of the home center product brand exclusives, as well as some of the winners and losers in ShopSmart’s performance tests.

LOWE’S. Valspar paint, Kobalt tools, and Troy-Bilt outdoor power and lawn equipment are among the private labels available at Lowe’s. Pick it for: Heavy-duty snow blowers and generators. Skip it for: Air purifiers and leaf blowers.

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THE HOME DEPOT. Home Depot is the exclusive retailer of Behr paints, a winner in ShopSmart’s test. Its EcoSmart lightbulbs are another smart buy. Plus, it’s the only home center that carries exclusive lines of Honda and Ego lawn gear. Pick it for: Lawn mowers and Behr interior paints. Skip it for: Flooring and Glidden interior paints.

SEARS. Craftsman and Kenmore are two of Sears’ brands that often do well in ShopSmart tests, but their private-label paints and stains don’t. Pick it for: Refrigerators and laundry appliances. Skip it for: Cordless drills and interior paints.

WALMART. Walmart’s house brand is Great Value. The store also carries exclusive products from big brand names like Bissell and Char-Broil. Pick it for: Lightbulbs and gas grills. Skip it for: Vacuums and coffeemakers.

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For the full list of ShopSmart’s home center product winners and losers, as well as a roundup of store-brand everyday product winners, pick up the March 2015 issue on newsstands now.