Since RetailWire is all about discussion, we thought it might be fun to have a good, old-fashioned "retail rumble" - take a pair of notable retailers, and ask our expert BrainTrust panel and readers to tell us who does the better job. For our first effort, we'll take a look at a pair of real heavyweights, Lowe's and The Home Depot.
First, here's the "Tale of the Tape":
The Home Depot and Lowe's are both clearly success stories, with nearly 4,000 stores between them. While "The Great Recession" wasn't kind to either retailer or the home improvement category, it gave each the opportunity to get back to basics. In its most recent annual report, The Home Depot noted that comp sales were up nearly three percent in 2010, the first increase in several years, and that it had undertaken major initiatives including providing employees with mobile capabilities via its FIRST phone program; completed 19 Rapid Deployment Centers to improve the supply chain; and made strides in multi-channel retailing. They also issued "Success Sharing" checks totaling over $16 million to employees, which was five times more than in 2006.
For its part, Lowe's said it grew market share in 10 of 19 product categories in FY 2010; provided consumers with better credit, delivery, and installation options; and rolled out programs to reach customers at their job sites and homes. Lowe's also slowed store expansion to focus on improving the customer experience in stores they already operate.
Personally, I like both retailers and haven't had a bad experience in either one over the past several years. Prior to that, I thought the major differentiation between the two was that the service at Lowe's was better, but I'd say the companies are now on par, at least in my market, with associates fairly accessible, friendly, and willing to help.
One of the differences I find at local stores is the self checkout option. It's available in the local Home Depot, but not Lowe's. Personally, I don't think self-checkout is a great option for many large/bulky items that one tends to purchase in home improvement stores. Overall, I'd give a slight edge to Lowe's on years of good customer service, but the edge to The Home Depot on building a larger company and years of financial performance.
What do you think?
Which of the following choices is currently doing the best job in home improvement retailing?