Lowe’s Companies

Written By Shane Williams

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. Carl Buchan became owner of the business in 1952 and stores were opened in Durham, Asheville, and Charlotte in 1955. He managed the chain’s 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.

A separate company, Lowes Foods, began in 1954. It was started by Jim Lowe, son of Lucius Lowe. While it started with a small grocery store in North Wilkesboro, it too became a sizable company and serves consumers in North and South Carolina and Virginia.

Initially, the biggest buyers at Lowe’s (the hardware store) 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 has more than 1,700 home improvement stores and approximately 300,000 associates. According to one source, it is the second largest home improvement store in the United States, following Home Depot. Lowe’s opened its first store in Canada in 2007 and in Mexico in 2010.