Lowe's topped Home Depot thanks to advertising and geography
Now that both major home-improvement retailers have posted their results for the pandemic quarter, investors are left to ponder: How did Lowe’s Cos. outperform Home Depot Inc. by so much?
It likely came down to advertising, promotions and store locations that are farther away from the areas hardest hit by Covid-19.
Lowe’s went ahead with big promotional events during the first quarter, including their Spring Black Friday. Home Depot, meanwhile, didn’t partake in that kind of advertising as part of its push to curb visits to stores during the pandemic. Lowe’s also took steps to reduce crowds, like closing stores early at 7 p.m., although Home Depot closes earlier, at 6 p.m.
“Lowe’s did run the Spring Black Friday event, and may have benefited from traffic related to that, among other factors,” Seth Sigman, an analyst for Credit Suisse said Wednesday in a research note.
In the first quarter, Lowe’s boosted same-store sales 11 percent, its biggest increase since 2003, in crushing the average analyst estimate of 4 percent. Home Depot posted a gain of 6.4 percent, which also topped estimates.
Lowe’s shares rose as much as 5 percent in New York trading on Wednesday. Home Depot gained as much as 1.8 percent, after a decline Tuesday of 3 percent following its earnings release.
Regional strength also played a role. For years, investors have lamented that Lowe’s had fewer stores in major cities. For example, it doesn’t have a store in Manhattan, while Home Depot does. But that likely helped Lowe’s as metro areas faced stiffer social-distancing policies. About a quarter of Lowe’s locations are in rural areas, while only 10 percent are in cities.
Being “further out from the major metros worked in their favor this quarter,” RBC analyst Scot Ciccarelli said in a research note. Businesses outside cities were less impacted, he said.
But these real estate advantages shouldn’t take away from the improvements Lowe’s has made, Ciccarelli said. Chief Executive Officer Marvin Ellison, a former Home Depot executive, has been revamping the company’s operations since joining in 2018. He’s also sold off assets and closed weak-performing stores.
The company has been making progress over the past year, but Ellison didn’t have a standout quarter to show Wall Street that the chain has really made a leap. And now, it appears, he does.
“Lowe’s has had a couple of choppy quarters over the past few years,” Simeon Gutman, an analyst for Morgan Stanley, said in a research note. “It is encouraging to see what appears to be clean out-performance in a period with so much disruption.”
--Bloomberg News with contributions from Ad Age