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April 14, 2021, 7:52 a.m. EDT

Lowe’s makes a bigger play for pros with launch of new amenities

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Tonya Garcia

Lowe’s Cos. /zigman2/quotes/205563664/composite LOW +1.40% Inc. has unveiled a number of perks for its professional customers, including a dedicated Pro Zone that will make high-demand items more accessible, free phone charging stations and flexible credit.

Store associates have also been equipped with technology to improve the shopping experience for home improvement and building professionals.

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.

As shoppers stayed close to home during COVID-19, many shifted their spending away from experiences to goods, particularly those that would make the home more comfortable and functional. Lowe’s, Home Depot Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208081807/composite HD +0.55% , Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.44% and other “essential” retailers were beneficiaries.

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.

Read: ‘Suburban sprawl’ will continue to benefit luxury furniture retailer RH: Cowen

And: Home remodeling trends: What’s in and what’s out for 2021

“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,” said David Denton, Lowe’s chief financial officer, during the UBS Global Consumer and Retail Virtual Conference last month, according to FactSet.

“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.

“Early in the pandemic, consumers didn’t want someone in their home,” Bill Boltz, Lowe’s executive vice president of merchandising, told MarketWatch.

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

Watch: COVID-19 may accelerate these 3 trends in real estate

“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 do-it-yourself 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, 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.”

“We know we still have a lot of room for growth, both online and store level,” Boltz said.

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.”

Lowe’s stock has gained 24.4% for the year to date, and has more than doubled, up 101.6% over the last year.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.10% has gained 10% for 2021 so far.

/zigman2/quotes/205563664/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 211.31
+2.91 +1.40%
Volume: 4.48M
May 10, 2021 4:03p
P/E Ratio
27.30
Dividend Yield
1.14%
Market Cap
$149.46 billion
Rev. per Employee
$263,521
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/zigman2/quotes/208081807/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 341.12
+1.87 +0.55%
Volume: 4.84M
May 10, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
28.57
Dividend Yield
1.93%
Market Cap
$364.77 billion
Rev. per Employee
$261,708
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/zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 140.82
+0.62 +0.44%
Volume: 8.77M
May 10, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
29.73
Dividend Yield
1.56%
Market Cap
$394.45 billion
Rev. per Employee
$243,109
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/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
34,742.82
-34.94 -0.10%
Volume: 370.04M
May 10, 2021 5:40p
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