After years of stability, the two largest home improvement retailers in the U.S. this month announced a flurry of major marketing moves. In early September, Lowe’s said it was parting ways with its chief brand and marketing officer Marisa Thalberg. And instead of filling the CMO role, which had reported to CEO Marvin Ellison, marketing was moved beneath the merchandising department. The Home Depot also announced a new CMO, former Delta executive Molly Battin. Her appointment follows the seven-year tenure of Adolfo Villagomez, who left the company in the spring.
The turnover comes at a time when retail experts are closely watching the home improvement sector for signs of consumer pullback following pandemic-induced gains. As the economy continues to soften and prices on everyday items rise, consumers could begin foregoing items for the home, such as new furniture, redesign projects and renovations and even décor items. This is expected to place more pressure on the marketing departments of retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wayfair, which will be forced to serve up compelling value propositions for customers. By linking marketing more closely with merchandising, Lowe’s could be shifting away from brand building and connecting marketing more closely with sales, experts said. In addition, messaging may move to more value-driven language and deals as marketers focus more on profit.
“When you’re looking for money, it’s a lot easier to cut those things, like brand building or experiments where you’re not seeing the more immediate ROI,” said Steve Dennis, president and founder of retail consultancy Sageberry Consulting.