Lowe's was founded in 1946. It was formed as a small town hardware store selling everything from overalls and snuff to wash tubs, work boots and even horse collars.
Lowe's went public in 1961, and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1979. At that time, majority of Lowe's business consisted of sales to professional homebuilders. This began to change in 1980 with the decline of the housing market. Concurrently, Lowe's chief competitor, Home Depot, introduced its low-price warehouse concept. Instead of building warehouse stores of its own, Lowe's began to change the layout of its stores. By 1982, Lowe's had re-designed half of its 229 stores to serve do-it-yourself (DIY) consumers.
Although Lowe's had more than 300 stores by 1988, its outlets were only about 20,000 square feet (one-fifth the size of Home Depot's warehouse stores). Since 1989, Lowe's focused on building larger stores. In 1991, the company began to phase out smaller stores and build warehouse outlets. In 1993, Lowe's opened 57 large stores, and thus almost doubled its total floor space.
Lowe's entered into a joint venture to sell an exclusive line of Kobalt-brand professional mechanics tools produced by Snap-on, in 1998. The expansion of Lowe's in Western US was boosted by the purchase of the Washington-based 40-store chain, Eagle Hardware & Garden in 1999. Eagle stores were re-branded as Lowe's.
In 2003, Lowe's strategic alliance with Werner Ladder created new opportunities to market products to both homeowners and professionals. Lowe's finalized a transaction to sell 26 commodity-focused locations operating under the Contractor Yard banner to The Strober Organization in 2004. The company added lumber to its line-up of items available for purchase online in 2005. In the same year, Samsung-branded digital kitchen appliances were made available at more than 100 stores in the US. Lowe's also announced plans to expand its Valdosta, Georgia based regional distribution center in 2005.
Lowe's opened 150 stores and a new distribution center in Plainfield, Connecticut in FY2005. Lowe's opened 155 stores in FY2006.
In 2008, the company opened 149 new stores and relocated four stores. Lowe's made several product recalls in 2008. Lowe's Home Centers recalled about 24,000 Perfect Flame Double-Lid Four-Burner Gas Grills and 84,000 Children's Storage Bins during 2008. In the same year, the company opened a new flatbed distribution center in Purvis, Mississippi.
In 2009, the company entered into a joint venture with Woolworths (one of the largest retailers in Australia) to launch a home improvement retail network in Australia, in which the company will have a one-third share. In the same year, Lowe's opened its new store in Missouri, the US.
Lowe's opened its first store in Monterrey, Mexico in 2010. In the same year, the company also opened stores in Denver and Colorado Springs (Colorado), San Jose (California), Claremont (New Hampshire) and Salem (Virginia) in the US and its first store in Saskatchewan, Canada. Further in 2010, Lowe's launched recycling centers in its nearly 1,700 stores throughout the US. The recycling centers offer customers an easy way to recycle rechargeable batteries, cell phones, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and plastic shopping bags. That same year, the company offered to its consumers GE Energy Smart 9-watt LED bulb, the industry's first and only energy star rated LED A-Line bulb.
In 2011, Lowe's recalled its Freestanding Steel Outdoor Fireplaces, exclusively sold at Lowe's, as they posed a fire hazard to consumers. The company launched a new and improved version of the Kobalt Mechanics Tools line nationwide, adding an additional 344 products to the mechanics tools line, in mid-2011.
In the same year, the company recalled Task Force electric log splitters, sold exclusively at Lowe's, as they posed a laceration or amputation injury hazard to users. During the same time, Lowe's introduced the lowes.com en Espanol, the Spanish version of the company's website. The company also reorganized its US store operations into North, South and West divisions.
Later in 2011, the company's Board of Directors authorized the repurchase of up to $5 billion of the company's common stock. Lowe's also launched its home improvement application for iPhone and iPod touch. This application is designed to support customers with their home improvement projects and to provide them with tools to help simplify their shopping experience.
Kobalt (a brand of the company) added 18-volt and corded power tools to the line of 1,700 Kobalt tools sold exclusively at Lowe's in 2011. The new Kobalt Power Tools are compatible with both Kobalt lithium-ion, as well as nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries. As part of its new brand strategy, the company launched its new brand positioning, with the tag line 'Never Stop Improving' and a new advertising campaign.
In late 2011, the company closed 20 underperforming stores in 15 states of the US. During the same time, Lowe's launched MyLowe's, an integrated online tool that allows customers to track all their purchases, in-store and online, and store on their online customer profiles. Towards the end of 2011, the company acquired ATG Stores, an online retailer of home improvement and lifestyle products based in Kirkland, Washington.
In early 2012, the company launched an Employee Training Program along with National Kitchen and Bath Association to educate and train its employees who specialize in interior kitchen and bath projects.
In FY2012, Lowe's opened 25 stores (including relocation of two existing stores), of which seven stores were opened in Canada. During the same period, Lowe's closed 27 stores in the US.
In mid-2012, Lowe's entered the smart home market with a cloud-based home management system, Iris. This system allows customers to control and interact with their home from anywhere using their smart phone, tablet or computer. Later in 2012, Lowe's and IMG College entered into an agreement, under which Lowe's secured the official designation and category exclusivity for the home improvement retail category at schools nationwide. Lowe's is the first company to secure a presenting sponsorship to a nationwide collection of universities' mobile applications.
The company received 'the 2012 SmartWay Excellence Award' by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its environmental performance in the freight transportation industry, in late 2012. Lowe's also received 'the 2012 WaterSense Retailer Partner of the Year' award by EPA for its water-efficient products and practices. In the same year, the company received the 'International CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award' for its Iris Smart Kit. This product competed in the consumer electronics products across 29 product categories.
In 2013, the company signed a two year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports. Lowe's will be the full-season primary sponsor of the No. 48 NASCAR Sprint Cup team and the five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson in 2014 and 2015. In the same year, the company was given the 'ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year - Sustained Excellence Award' for the fourth consecutive year by EPA. This award was presented to the company for its energy-efficient appliances and products.
Further in 2013, Lowe's completed the acquisition of the majority of assets of Orchard Supply Hardware, including 72 Orchard stores, for approximately $205 million in cash, plus the assumption of payables owed to nearly all of Orchard's supplier partners. Orchard will continue to operate as a separate, standalone business, retaining its brand. The acquisition expanded Lowe's presence in California through the addition of Orchard's smaller-format neighborhood stores, complementing Lowe's big-box retail presence.
Lowe's launched a dedicated fleet of natural gas-powered trucks at its regional distribution center in Mount Vernon, Texas in 2013. The company will transition all regional distribution center dedicated fleets to natural gas by end of 2017.
In late 2013, the company integrated Point Inside's StoreMode mobile shopper engagement platform into the Lowe's mobile application to improve the in-store customer experience. Point Inside is a provider of technologies for indoor mapping, micro-location services, and customer engagement. This new application will help shoppers at all Lowe's locations to search for products and instantly find the items' locations on a detailed store map.
Lowe's entered into a strategic partnership with Porch.com in January 2014 to connect consumers with home improvement services contractors for projects outside the scope of Lowe's installation services.
In February 2014, Kobalt entered into the outdoor power equipment category with the launch of a new line featuring seven cordless tools such as a hedge trimmer, blower, chainsaw, string trimmer/edger, pole saw and two lawn mowers. In May 2014, Lowe's, along with The Valspar (a global leader in the paint and coatings industry), introduced Valspar Reserve Paint + Primer with HydroChroma technology.
The company, in conjunction with the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis, announced plans to build a customer support center in Indianapolis, in July 2014. In the same month, Lowe's launched ProExpress, an on-demand delivery service which fulfills the emergency and last minute supplies of pro customers. Further in July 2014, the company expanded its Iris smart home solution portfolio with the addition of smart garage door controller, electronic pet door, window blinds controller and hose faucet timer.
In October 2014, Lowe's announced that it will open two new stores in Manhattan by the second half of 2015.
Lowe's Canada introduced its first installations of the Lowe's Holoroom, a home improvement simulator that applies 3-D and augmented reality technologies, in November 2014. In the same month, the company launched Smart Valve, a water shut off valve that can be controlled over the Internet to protect homes from flooding and potentially costly repairs. Smart Valve is the latest addition to its Iris smart home system.
In December 2014, Lowe's announced plans to introduce the HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams brand paints, which would be available in Lowe's stores and on Lowes.com beginning in March 2015.