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Lowe's Companies, Inc. ( ) is a U.S.marker-based chain of retail home improvement and appliance stores. Founded in 1946 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolinamarker, the chain now serves over 14+ million customers a week in its 1,616 stores in the United States and Canadamarker. With the opening of the South Burlingtonmarker, Vermontmarker location, Lowe's now operates stores in all 50 states. Expansion into Canada began in 2007, with the opening of a store in Hamilton, Ontariomarker.Lowe's Companies, Inc. is 48 on the Fortune 500 list. As of 2008, the chain is based in Mooresville, North Carolinamarker, about 30 minutes north of uptown Charlottemarker. Lowe's is the second-largest hardware chain in the U.S. behind The Home Depot and ahead of Menards. Globally, Lowe's is the world's second-largest hardware chain, again behind The Home Depot and ahead of Germanymarker's OBI.

History

Lucius S. Lowe opened Lowe's North Wilkesboro Hardware in North Wilkesboromarker, North Carolinamarker in 1921. The business was inherited by his daughter, Ruth, when Lucius died in 1940. She sold the company to her brother, Jim, that same year. Jim Lowe and Ruth's husband, Carl Buchan, both served in World War II, and during the war, the store was run by Ruth and her mother. Jim took on Carl (honorably discharged after receiving an injury) as a partner in 1943.

Under Buchan's management, the store focused on hardware and building materials. Before then, the product mix had also included notions, dry goods, horse tack, snuff, produce, and groceries. The company bought a second store in Sparta, North Carolinamarker, in 1949.

Carl Buchan and Jim Lowe differed on expanding the company to new areas, and they split in 1952, with Buchan taking control of the hardware and building supply business, and Lowe taking other joint ventures the two controlled, including a car dealership. Buchan became the sole owner of Lowe's. Lowe started the Lowes Foods grocery store chain in 1954.

Buchan quickly expanded, opening stores by 1955 in Ashevillemarker, Charlottemarker, and Durhammarker, North Carolinamarker. More stores opened through the 1950s.

In 1960, Carl Buchan died of a heart attack at age 44. His five-man executive team, which included Robert Strickland and Leonard Herring, took the company public in 1961. By 1962 Lowe's operated 21 stores and reported annual revenues of $32 million.

Lowe's continued to expand throughout the southeast United States.

It suffered in the 1980s, due to market conditions and increasing competition from the new big-box chain, The Home Depot. For a while, Lowe's resisted adopting the big-box format, partly because Lowe's management believed that the smaller towns where Lowe's mostly operated would not support huge stores. However, Lowe's eventually had to adopt the big-box format in order to survive. Today most Lowe's stores are of the big-box variety, though some classic format stores remain in smaller markets.

Lowe's has since grown nationally, aided by the purchase of Eagle Hardware & Garden in 1999. It is now the second-largest home improvement chain in North America, and has begun expanding outside the United States, starting with the Southern Ontario area. The first store outside of United States was in Hamilton, Ontariomarker at Barton Street and Woodward Avenue.

Lowe's announced on the 25th August 2009 that they had entered a joint venture with the Australian retailer Woolworths to enter the Australian market with 150 big box style superstores.

Organization

Lowe's is organized geographically into Divisions (such as Southeast, West, Northeast), Regions, Areas, Districts and then the individual store. A Lowe's store can have anywhere from 80 to over 400 employees depending on the size and sales volume.

Brands

As with other large retailers across North America, Lowe's also owns and exclusively sells certain brands (italicized). Lowe's is also one of the top 50 trademark applicants according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Some of the brands found at the Lowe's stores are:

  • Armstrong (Flooring)
  • Basic Blindz (blinds)
  • Bosch (tools/appliances)
  • Bolens (power equipment)
  • Bruce (Flooring)
  • Char-Broil (grills)
  • Char-Griller (grills)
  • Choicedek (composite decking)
  • Delta (tools)
  • DeWalt (tools)
  • Fisher & Paykel (appliances)
  • Frigidaire (appliances)
  • GE (appliances)
  • Harbor Breeze (Ceiling fans and accessories)
  • Hillman (Fasteners and general hardware)
  • Hitachi (Tools)
  • Holiday Living (garden/seasonal)
  • Husqvarna (power equipment)
  • Jacuzzi (whirlpool baths)
  • John Deere (power equipment)
  • Kohler (bath/kitchen)
  • Kobalt (tools)
  • Kraftmaid, Schuler, Diamond Reflections, Shenandoah (cabinets)
  • Larson (storm doors/windows)
  • Levolor (Window Fashions)
  • Maytag/Whirlpool (appliances)
  • Miracle-Gro (garden)
  • Mohawk (Flooring)
  • Mosquito Shield (garden)
  • Olympic (paint)
  • Ortho (garden)
  • Peachtree (doors/windows)
  • Pella (doors/windows)
  • Perfect Flame (Grills)
  • Pergo (Flooring)
  • Plumb Pak (plumbing supplies)
  • Porter Cable (tools)
  • Portfolio (lighting)
  • Precision Components (flooring)
  • Roundup (garden)
  • Rayovac (Batteries/Flashlights)
  • Rust-Oleum (Paint)
  • Sakrete (building materials)
  • Samsung (appliances)
  • Scotts (garden)
  • Skil (tools)
  • Sterling (Tubs)
  • Surface Source (Flooring)
  • Task Force (Tools)
  • Therma-Tru Doors(doors/windows)
  • TopChoice (lumber)
  • Trex (composite decking)
  • Troy-bilt (power equipment)
  • Utilitech (Electrical supplies)
  • Valspar (paint; formerly American Tradition)
  • Vermont American (Band Saw blades)
  • Zinsser (Primers, Sizing, Wood Care)


Lowe's offers customers about 40,000 products in stock and more through a Special Order Service.

Environmental record

Lowe’s was awarded the Energy Star retail partner of the year in 2004. Lowe’s was awarded for its outstanding contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through promoting energy-efficient products and educating consumers and employees on the value of the Energy Star program. In 2000, Lowe’s released a policy promising that all wood products sold would not be sourced from rainforests. "Our new environmental policy represents a major victory for the forests and our customers," said Bob Tillman, Chairman and CEO of Lowe's. "Our customers expect Lowe's to deliver the best quality lumber and wood products that have been responsibly harvested and produced by our suppliers." However according to a new report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency, lumber that Lowe’s has been selling is coming from the forests of Indonesia’s remote Papua Province, where 80 percent of logging is estimated to be illegal.

Advertising and sponsorships

Prior to 2006, the Lowe's tagline was "Improving Home Improvement," and before that was "Lowe's Knows." In 2006, Lowe's adopted the new slogan "Let's Build Something Together."

In 2006, Lowe's partnered with designer Marianne Cusato to develop and offer affordable house plans for the hurricane-affected Gulf region. Lowe's is the exclusive retailer for both the plans and building materials for the Lowe's Katrina Cottage. They offer easy construction and affordability, as well as the possibility of expansion. Moreover, they meet all international building codes and exceed hurricane codes.

Lowe's has a wide variety of television and radio commercials. A significant number of different racing-inspired commercials can be seen and are often played outside of television race coverage. Gene Hackman's voice can be heard on many commercial advertisements for Lowe's.

In 2006, Lowe's began sponsoring the radio broadcast booth of the New York Yankees. Frequently during every game Yankees announcer John Sterling states "We are coming to you live from the Lowe's Broadcast Booth. Lowe's: Let's build something together."

Lowe's and other landscaping companies landscape some areas of Busch Gardens Williamsburgmarker.

The domain lowes.com receives at least 7 million unique visitors per month.

Racing sponsorships

Lowe's purchased naming rights of Lowe's Motor Speedwaymarker (formerly Charlotte Motor Speedway) in Concord, North Carolinamarker in 1999 and sold the naming rights back to Speedway Motorsports, Inc. in 2009. Lowe's Motor Speedway is home to several auto racing events annually. In addition to the naming rights, Lowe's is also an associate sponsor of several Speedway Motorsports, Inc. properties such as Atlanta Motor Speedwaymarker and Bristol Motor Speedwaymarker. Lowe's, through its Kobalt brand, sponsors the spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedwaymarker known as the Kobalt Tools 500.

The corporation is the primary sponsor for four-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Chevrolet Impala SS and a part time sponsor of the #5 Nationwide Series team; both teams are owned by Hendrick Motorsports. Prior to the current sponsorship deal with Hendrick Motorsports, Lowe's was the sponsor of the #31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing driven by Mike Skinner and Robby Gordon from 1997 to 2001. Prior to the RCR deal, Lowe's was the primary sponsor of the #11 Ford driven by Brett Bodine for Junior Johnson And Associates, and later, Brett's own team, Brett Bodine Racing (after Bodine bought the #11 team from Johnson).

Lowe's also sponsors Fernandez Racing in the American Le Mans Series and previously sponsored the team in the Rolex Sports Car Series; in that series, Lowe's sponsors the #99 Gainsco Stallings Racing Pontiac in events where Johnson is driving..

Lowe's Canada

Based in Torontomarker, Ontario, Lowe's Canada opened its first three stores on December 10 2007, in Hamiltonmarker, Bramptonmarker and Brantfordmarker. On February 1 2008, they opened three more stores in Torontomarker, East Gwillimburymarker and a second store in Brampton as well as a new location in Maple (Vaughan). Currently, additional stores are under construction and scheduled to open in 2009.

Each store represents an average investment of $20.5 million ($20.4 million USD).

Lowe's benefits, employment, and culture

Six company holidays are standard including New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. All holidays except Thanksgiving and Christmas are working holidays, with full-time employees receiving eight hours of holiday pay which can now be banked and utilized, and part-time employees receiving four.

Full-time hourly employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation after one year of service, three weeks after five years of service, and four weeks after fifteen years of service, while salaried corporate employees with prior experience often receive two weeks of vacation immediately. Lowe's also offers a comprehensive service reward to long-term employees, such as additional vacation time and a series of gifts, ranging from a two-year pin to a thirty-year Rolex watch.

Lowe's offers health, vision, and dental plans for full-time employees. In addition, part-time employees are eligible for health benefits as well, although the part-time employees' health plan is more limited than those offered for full-timers. Lowe's further offers a variety of other health-and-wellness benefits including optional pre-paid legal services and a program called LifeTrack, which offers programs and rewards to encourage healthy behavior in employees (including smoking cessation and weight-loss programs and incentives).

Lowe's offers a 401 plan for employees after six months of employment. Employees are given a wide selection of mutual funds to invest in, as well as company stock. In addition, Lowe's contributes a baseline match to all employees following 180 days of service. Employees can contribute up to 50% of their paycheck, and the company will fully match the first 3% and partially match up to 6% after the employee has been enrolled in the program for a full year. In addition to the 401(k) plan, employees may also elect to participate in a stock-purchase program in which employees contribute either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of their paycheck for a period of 6 months, after which the company purchases Lowe's stock for the employee at a discount equal to 15% off the price of the stock on the last day of the 6 month period.

Lowe's markets itself internally and externally as a customer-focused organization in contrast to Home Depot, a contractor-oriented organization. While both companies employ specialists from their respective fields, Lowe's provides a supplemental commission-pay structure with a philosophy of retaining energized quality staffing, while Home Depot's employees are paid a flat salary. The marketing strategy between Lowe's and Home Depot is similar to the strategy between Target and Wal-Martmarker, with Lowe's stressing a softer and kinder image, appealing to women.

Lowe's class actions

Lowe's was involved in a small cluster of class action lawsuits, that all revolve around Lowe's employee payment system. The cases focused on a pay practice known as "variable rate overtime". Variable rate overtime has the effect of paying a decreasing overtime rate the more hours a person works in a week. The suits alleged that salaried managers who worked between 40 and 50 hours per week, were improperly compensated for that time. The variable rate overtime ended in the first quarter of 2006.

The first case was filed in October 2002 by employees of the Lowe's store in Shawnee, Kansasmarker. In September 2005, the cases was certified as class action. Lowe's has four similar cases in New Yorkmarker, Indianamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker and Ohiomarker. The lawsuits for New York, Indiana and Kansas resulted in an out of court settlement on September 22, 2006. The settlement was paid within the first two weeks of November 2007.

The lawsuit in Pennsylvania became a class-action lawsuit in June 2004, with 550 employees.

The case in Ohio was filed by ten former Lowe’s employees, in August 2004.

References

  1. Lowe's Opens First Vermont Store
  2. Fortune 500 List
  3. Lowe's targets Canada, No. 2 U.S. home retailer plans 100 store openings to tap into expanding, $39 billion market, Sep 20, 2007 04:30 AM, Toronto Star
  4. "Carolinas FYI: About Lowe's and Lowes," The Charlotte Observer, March 16, 2003.
  5. Lowe's brands through LF, LLC at USPTO Search
  6. USPTO Top 50 Trademark applicants
  7. Lowe's Katrina Cottages F&Q
  8. Gene Hackman -other works
  9. Compete.com survey
  10. Lowe's Canada Store Locator
  11. Lowe's says Canadian expansion 'on track'
  12. [1]
  13. Lowe's to settle class-action suit, David Twiddy, AP Business Writer, September 22, 2006
  14. Class-action lawsuit faults Lowe's on OT, By James Haggerty, TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER, 02/28/2005
  15. denial of Lowe's motion to dismiss
  16. Liability For Back Pay Looms at Lowe's Stores, LawsuitSearch.com, retrieved March 27, 2008


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