Lowe’s was founded in 1921 by Lucius Lowe in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, as a small hardware store. Lowe died in 1940 and the business was sold to his brother Jim Lowe. In 1943, Lucius Lowe’s son in law, H. Carl Buchan became his partner. Carol Buchan became owner of the business in 1952 and stores were opened in Durham, Asheville, and Charlotte in 1955. He managed the chains growth to 15 stores by 1960. During the next two decades, Lowe’s underwent rapid expansion, and by 1979, Lowe’s was a member of the New York Stock Exchange.
Initially, Lowe’s biggest buyers were professional contractors but when Robert Strickland became CEO in 1978, marketing was directed to individual consumers and households, in a “do it yourself” model. Lowe’s concentrated on selling appliances, hardware, and construction materials. The store was remodeled after a supermarket with seasonal products placed at the front of the store. Interior and exterior items were placed in the front while tools and basic items were placed in the back. In this way, most consumers who came to purchase one product would have to walk past many items and hopefully purchase more. A store in Morganton, North Carolina was the first to adopt this plan. The new marketing campaign also included large posters that displayed household items in use, as opposed to signs. Moreover, store hours and advertising increased. By 1982, revenue exceeded $1billion.
By the mid-1980s more than half of Lowe’s sales were to non-professional contractors. In 1982, Lowe’s achieved its first billion dollar sales year and earned a profit of $25 million. Lowe’s began competing with rival Home Depot, and in 1994 its stores became large warehouses of more than 85,000 square feet that featured tools, building supplies and home decorations. Products expanded with more tools, hardware, paint, plumbing and stereo equipment. Many of the larger stores began to feature garden areas up to 30,000 square feet. Lowe’s strategy was to expand marketing to consumers while still maintaining a large clientele of contractors.
Today, with headquarters in Mooresville, Lowe’s is the second largest home improvement retail store in the world and seventh largest in the United States. Lowe’s opened its first store in Canada in 2007 and Mexico in 2010. Lowe’s stores have over 40,000 products, and the company remains dedicated to low-priced home improvement products and excellent customer service. Lowe’s offers Build and Grow clinic workshops to children on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. The workshop is free and allows children to build a new object by hand each clinic.
“Lowe’s Companies, INC.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).
"Our Heritage." lowes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://media.lowes.com/history/>.
"Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse." thehistoryofcorporate.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://www.thehistoryofcorporate.com/companies-by-industry/traderetail/lowe’s-home-improvement-warehouse/>.
By Shane Williams, North Carolina History Project
See Also:Related Categories: Business and Industry