As consumers invested in home improvement, both Lowe’s and The Home Depot benefited with impressive comparable sales in their 2020 second quarters, and both attributed investments in retail technology to their success.
Lowes comparable sales increased 34.2% in the quarter; comparable sales for the U.S. home improvement business increased 35.1%. The retailer saw total average ticket growth of 11.6%.
The Home Depot posted Q2 comparable sales up 23.4%; comparable sales in the U.S. jumped 25%. Both ticket and transactions were up double-digit in the quarter and big ticket comp transactions (over $1,000) were up approximately 16%.
Spurred by the health crisis and many shoppers finding themselves inside their homes, traveling less, and eating out less throughout the quarter, home improvement is one retail segment that appears to be benefiting form the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the quarter, we saw customers take on projects throughout their homes,” said Craig Menear, chairman, CEO and president, The Home Depot, in the retailer’s earnings call. “From deck building to painting projects, landscape work and home repairs due to increase wear and tear.”
“While we can’t predict the sales trajectory for the back half of the year,” he later noted, “we do know that for many of our customers, the home has never been more important.”
Despite uptick in demand, Lowe's president and CEO Marvin Ellison pointed out that its results could not have been realized without its efforts over the past 18 months to implement its retail fundamental strategy.
“These modernization efforts have created technology and operational platforms to meet customer demand and grow our business during these challenging times,” said Ellison.
So how have tech investments enabled Lowes and Home’s Depot’s to be so successful during a unpredictable retail environment amid an unfolding pandemic? Here are three takeaways from their Q2 results.
It’s Worth Investing to be able To Run Digital Platforms Without interruption
One initiative which allowed Lowe’s to quickly make informed decisions and implement necessary changes during the COVID-19 crisis included the replatforming of its website, lowes.com, from a decade-old infrastructure to the cloud, and developing a “top-rated” mobile app. On lowes.com, sales grew 135% in the quarter, as professional and DIY customers increasingly shopped online, driving online penetration to 8% of sales. Lowe’s completed the replatform of its website to the cloud during the quarter, which enabled the retailer to improve site functionality and sustain triple-digit growth without any systems interruptions. CIO Seemantini Godbole and her team completed this replatforming effort in record time, said Ellison.
Interconnected Shopping is a Multifaceted Strategy
The Home Depot’s mobile apps saw a record number of downloads in Q2 and the retailer saw significant growth in conversion rates across all digital platforms.
“These results confirm our belief that we’ve been making investments in the right areas of our business and that those investments are resonating with our customers,” noted Ted Decker, EVP, Merchandising, The Home Depot.
The Home Depot has been working to enable multiple fulfillment options over the past few years, including buy-online-pickup-in-store with pickup lockers, buy-online-deliver-from-store via its express car and van delivery, and most recently, a curbside pickup option.
“As customers accelerate their adoption of an interconnected shopping experience, we’ve seen increased usage of these different fulfillment options,” said Decker. “During the second quarter, we saw triple-digit growth across all these platforms.”
Meaner noted that change in demand across Home Depot's digital platforms is not without its challenges, particularly from a delivery and fulfillment standpoint.
"We’ve been able to leverage investments we have made in the scale and flexibility of our supply chain network to relieve some of the pressure," he said. "This is exactly what we did during the quarter, when we temporarily transitioned one of our recently opened market delivery centers or MDCs to a direct fulfillment center or DFC, which primarily fulfills online orders. The investments that we have made in the underlying infrastructure and systems supporting the MDC, coupled with a strong cross-functional alignment across the organization enabled us to make this conversion just a few short weeks. The net result for our customers was the reduction in lead times for orders flowing from our direct fulfillment network."
In-Store Tech is Still Part of the Retail Experience
For essential retailers, the store experience is still paramount to driving purchases. Lowe’s has completed the rollout of its intuitive touchscreen point-of-sale system at checkout across all stores. The new interface dramatically reduces associate training time as compared to the cumbersome green screens and multiple interfaces that Lowe’s was using before and improves the customer experience through a shorter checkout process, according to Joseph McFarland III EVP, Stores, Lowe’s. The retailer also completed the launch of mobile printing across its store portfolio and installed digital signs appliance departments.
“These initiatives reflect our ongoing efforts to modernize our store environment, while giving our store associates more time in the aisles to serve our customers and move us further towards our goal of allocating 60% of their time to customer service and 40% to completing tasks,” said McFarland.
Lowe’s also launched a mobile check-in capability for curbside pickup in early July and added an internal order picking app to improve our associates' speed and accuracy in fulfilling these orders. Customers can alert Lowe’s when they're on their way and when they've arrived at the store to pick-up digital orders.
“It's all around designing for the associates, being able to handle the customer with speed,” said Lowe’s EVP, Merchandising, William Boltz.