USA update

Lowe's launches Pro Zone

It is a dedicated area situated near the Pro entrance for grab-and-go convenience with specially selected products and value packs for professionals

Lowe's Home Improvement has unveiled a number of perks for its professional customers, including a dedicated Pro Zone that makes high-demand items more accessible, free phone charging and air stations, extended trailer parking spots, and flexible credit.

Store staff have also been equipped with technology to improve the shopping experience for tradies. Fred Stokes, senior vice president of Pro Sales and Services for Lowe's, said:

We want to make sure any time spent away from the jobsite is efficient and productive for the Pro customer, especially small- to mid-size companies. We've enhanced our shopping experience, bringing in new products and services that help add value to each trip Pros take and cut down on the number of stops they make throughout the day.

Lowe's has placed increasing focus on the professional market in recent years, introducing more items that meet the needs of a professional customer and launching the Lowe's for Pros loyalty program in 2020.

Though there are concerns that businesses that did well during 2020 will see declines as consumers venture out and shift their spending once again, there's confidence that businesses related to the home will continue to do well. Speaking at the recent UBS Global Consumer and Retail Virtual Conference, Lowe's chief financial officer David Denton, said:

We still see the housing sector, the home improvement sector still very frothy at the moment, in the sense that demand continues to be robust across categories and across geographic markets, we continue to see interest rates, although they're ticking up, relatively at historic lows.
We see the consumers' balance sheet pretty healthy, still a lot of savings rate from a consumer perspective, so cash is building up into consumers' bank accounts.

And now that there is some distance between now and the beginning of COVID-19 when shoppers wanted to isolate themselves as much as possible, work involving professionals can take place. Bill Boltz, Lowe's executive vice president of merchandising, told MarketWatch:

Early in the pandemic, consumers didn't want someone in their home.

As time went on, Mr Boltz said consumers became more comfortable with tackling these bigger projects.

Outside projects, like decks, take precedence now with more comfort in having an installer in the home.

During its fourth-quarter earnings announcement, Lowe's said that DIY comparative sales "outpaced" professional comparative sales, but the pro business was still in the mid-20% range for the quarter and nearly 20% for the year.

With so much uncertainty across the retail landscape, Mr Boltz said the company is trying to control what it can, and the company's data shows that 90% of respondents who took on a project last year have plans to take on another this year.

Moreover, professionals are reporting that "their bookings are full". Mr Boltz said:

We know we still have a lot of room for growth, both online and store level. The market is very fragmented, there's lots of share to get ... There are a lot of pieces in motion and it's early innings in terms of being relevant to the pros.
  • Sources: MarketWatch and PR Newswire
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