©2014 Lowe's. LOWE'S and Gable Mansard Design are registered trademarks of LF, LLC.
©2014 Lowe's. LOWE'S and Gable Mansard Design are registered trademarks of LF, LLC.

After identifying a desire to focus more on professional contractor customers in the final quarter of 2018, home improvement retailer Lowe’s said its strategic initiatives in the pro segment are “gaining traction.” In the company’s first quarter 2019 earnings conference call, Lowe’s announced pro sales “significantly outperformed” DIY sales and helped the retailer achieve U.S. home improvement sales growth of 4.2% year over year (YOY) in the quarter.

Lowe’s posted mixed results in the fourth quarter of 2018 after a tumultuous year for the retailer and at the time president and CEO Marvin Ellison said one of the priorities for the company moving forward would be better serving the professional customer. Competitor Home Depot has outperformed Lowe’s in the pro customer segment and Lowe’s hoped to bridge the gap between the two.

Ellison said he was pleased with the company’s sales and customer service improvements to the pro market segment. Joseph McFarland, executive vice president of stores, said the improvement with the pro customer was driven by executing on five key steps:

Lowe’s first addressed its out-of-stock issues and inventory presentation “with a commitment to improving our job lot quantities and our product presentation under the Pro Canopy,” McFarland said. Lowe’s then aimed to improve its store level service to ensure pro customers could find what they were looking for and get out of the store quickly. To meet this end, Lowe’s added dedicated loaders and established preferred parking under its Pro Canopy. Lowe’s also staffed its Pro desk with dedicated associates and began deploying department supervisors at all pro areas of the store. The retailer redesigned its filed structure, adding 15 regional pro managers and began recruiting leaders to focus on in-store and outside pro sales. McFarland said his department also worked with the merchandising department to “communicate a consistent volume pricing message” to pros and “improved our product presentation” in the pro areas of stores.

McFarland also cited Lowe’s sponsorship deal with the National Football League (NFL) as a way to improve its appeal to the pro market.

“We ran pro-focused national advertising during the NFL draft, this was an extension of our do it right for less campaign, reinforcing that Lowe’s offers the job site delivery and job lot quantities pros need as well as designated for supervisors equipped to help our customers,” McFarland said. “Although we are pleased that our first quarter pro comp significantly outperformed our DIY comp, we are still in the early stages of our transformation with this customer.”