Walk into the Lowe’s store in Ballantyne Commons and you might not immediately recognize any major changes unless you’re a regular shopper.
New signage was recently added at the end of aisles to make navigating the store easier, for instance. Parking spaces for professional customers, such as contractors, have been reserved near the entrance to make hauling large loads of lumber and concrete easier. Floor space for slower moving inventory such as carpeting has been reduced to make way for more popular products like hardwood flooring.
These are all subtle ways the store has been revamped to make the shopping experience simpler and ultimately, to increase sales for Mooresville-based Lowe’s. The store revamp, which will be unrolled company-wide by the end of the year, is one of the ways new CEO Marvin Ellison is looking to improve the brand.
“We want it to drive sales,” said Bill Boltz, executive vice president of merchandising, during a tour of the Lowe’s at 5310 Ballantyne Commons Parkway this week.
Boltz, an executive at Home Depot with Ellison from 2006-2012, said that particular south Charlotte store was chosen for the first overhaul because its sales among professional shoppers weren’t as strong as Lowe’s would like. Pro customers are a major priority for Lowe’s since they spend an average of five times as much as the typical do-it-yourself shopper, the company has said.
“The whole effort here is about letting product be king. It’s not about a bunch of fluffy fixtures, but more about how you can simplify it, make it easier for them to shop, both on the pro side of the store and the DIY side, so that she wants to come in and look around,” Boltz said.
Boltz and Ellison were among the executives who spent their first several weeks on the job visiting stores to determine what could be fixed. Some issues were as simple as ensuring boxes of edgers and trimmers are stacked so they’re easier for customers to grab. Other improvements, such as the removal of customer service desks at the end of lighting aisles, were a bit more involved.
Those and other tweaks in the store are, Ellison has said, ways Lowe’s is “sharpening our focus on retail fundamentals.”
Focused on pros
Ellison, who started as CEO last summer, has called Lowe’s “a transformation ... not a turnaround.” Other steps he’s taken to help improve the company’s financial health include hiring several new C-suite executives like Boltz, a store-level restructuring that involved adding and slashing jobs, closing dozens of stores and improving IT capabilities.
“By thinning some of this down ... getting in the right colors, rationalizing the assortment ... let’s get in here what’s really hot, and then complement it with some promotional stuff where it makes sense,” Boltz said as he pointed out a scaled-down carpeting display.
Customers are gravitating more toward hard-surface flooring these days and less to wall-to-wall carpeting, he said. That’s why the former’s display is larger and more prominent, with squares of hardwood and laminate at eye level for customers. That trend also means a demand for more area rugs, too, he said.
Boltz and other Lowe’s executives are working on a schedule for the completion of the overhaul at the other stores nationwide.
One of the first things customers will notice about the 106,000-square-foot Ballantyne Lowe’s store is its massive nursery that opens into the parking lot. Rows of potted herbs, fruits and vegetables are displayed prominently, intended to appeal to shoppers like millennials and rooftop gardeners, Boltz said.
Even the nursery is pro-focused, he noted: Annual flowers that would have previously been displayed in six or 12 packs are now displayed in 18 packs.
Here are a few other changes Lowe’s customers will notice:
▪ The displays at the ends of aisles, what retailers call “end caps,” may vary from store to store, depending on what products managers see as most popular at each. For instance, the Ballantyne Lowe’s had a display filled with popular 55-gallon drum liner trash bags.
▪ Boxes of several bulky products in the stores have been pushed back and tucked away to widen aisles to make shopping with large carts easier.
▪ The displays of some large products have been redone to make comparing brands and styles easier. For instance, the Ballantyne Lowe’s previously had several rows of three grills stacked on one another, making for “poor sightlines,” Boltz said. Now, outdoor grills are lined in neat rows that customers can peruse more easily.
▪ Small price tags adhered to product racks have been replaced with large, prominent handwritten signs displaying prices.
▪ Entire sections of Craftsman tools as well as mechanic tool chest drop zones are being added to the front of stores. After it bought Craftsman from Sears in 2017 for $900 million, Stanley Black & Decker selected Lowe’s to start selling the popular tool and equipment brand.