When youre looking to be successful in the residential building materials market, two big names jump out at you: Lowes and Home Depot. And for good reason: they represent the largest market share in the industry.
There are important things to consider if you are trying to get your product into one of these two giants (or, if they already stock you, how to be more successful).
One of the first things you should consider is the difference between Lowes and Home Depot. That single question can help point you in the right direction and ensure that you have the best opportunity to sell your products.
Big companies like these may seem slow to change, but in reality, they are quite nimble and changing all the time. They are constantly testing very innovative ways to market and sell. They learn from each test and then choose whether or not to adopt the approaches, products and brands that pass those tests.
The point I am making is that they are not static. Even if the logo doesnt change, the Home Depot you see today will be a different Home Depot a year from now.
While both stores want to sell to the DIY and the Pro markets, there are distinctions you will notice just by walking through their establishments.
You might assume that Home Depot is trying to appeal primarily to the contractor and professional market. They have a true warehouse feel where builders and contractors can walk down the aisles and see a wide selection of tools and equipment they can use to get the job done. They also have more options for buying in bulk right off the shelf.
Other features of the stores give it an industrial feel. Using work lighting instead of retail lighting is one example, but there is also the fact that some products, aside from overstock, is stored on higher shelving and can only be retrieved by forklift.
If you walk into a Lowes, you might also assume that they built their brand more around the do-it-yourself marketthe regular Joes that want to improve their home. They feature retail lighting; a finished, commercial look inside and an appearance and staff that is less intimidating for novices.
But you have to look past store interiors and your personal opinions to really understand these companies, since both stores are constantly changing. There are things that shift back and forth between Lowes and Home Depot, like:
Focus on a product category like appliances
These can make a big difference when it comes to deciding which store should bring your product to market, and it requires you to sit back and figure out which store is a better fit for your product.
Here are some examples of how Lowes and Home Depot keep working to improve their approaches to the market.
A second area to consider is each stores saturation of the business market. As it stands now, Home Depot is the clear winner, with hundreds of more stores, larger profits and a higher rate of growth.
Home Depot also has stores in China, a market that Lowes hasnt tapped into yet. Depending on the scale youre looking for, this could make a huge difference, given Chinas soaring population.
Being familiar with something as simple as the difference between professional builders versus DIY weekend warriors is important, but even smaller things influence which stores customers decide to shop at.
While data on this is hard to come by, Lowes has a friendly and inviting atmosphere and appearance, even online, which has a significant influence on what type of person they attract. Whereas Home Depot projects a rustic look with darker, wood colors that suggest masculinity, Lowes focuses on areas that may not exactly scream masculinity.
These design differences have a tendency to cause a significant gender divide in retail. Market research suggests that darker colors attract men more so than women, while the lighter, whiter colors that Lowes favors (see their website for an example) tend to attract a larger female audienceor, at least, a broader mix of genders.
Perhaps gender doesnt immediately stick out as a difference that matters for your product, but its an important area to consider when deciding which store to go after first.
And even if you feel that Lowes is more appealing to women, that can easily switch if Home Depot decides to pivot and offer a better in-store experience with more and better trained staff.
3 Ways to Prepare to Call on Lowes or Home Depot
Spend a lot of time in both stores. Ideally, you should do this in different parts of the country. Visit the stores at different times of the day and on weekends. Get an overall perspective of the whole store. Who is shopping? What are they buying? What departments are the busiest?
Then focus in on your product category. What brands, models and price points do they carry? Are they featuring any products? Now, with your knowledge of the category, what are they doing wrong? What are they doing right? What changes should they make to increase sales?
Dont focus on whyyourproduct is better than the competition. Simply having a customer buy your product instead of your competitors doesnt help the big box.
Set up aGoogle Alertsfor both Home Depot and Lowes. Browse them once a week and youll get a sense of what they are doing and how they are changing.
Every quarter, each company releases its financial results. You need to read thesethere are comments from the CEO about the companys results and what changes they plan to make to improve those results. Those changes could affect you or give you a way to make a stronger case that they need your products. Heres a link for the financial reports ofHome DepotandLowesClickherefor an example of the changing differences between Lowes and Home Depot based on the comments of their CEOs.
Finally, its important to note that you should never restrict yourself to one or the other. While getting into either store can be rather difficult, finding your way into both stores allows you to capitalize their different audiences, which is by far the most ideal situation.
But by targeting one of the two first and getting your product in their inventory, you can begin to build your business profile. This will make your more appealing and proposals much less challenging when you try to get your product into other stores.
Click hereto read 9 more of my m0st popular articles on selling to big boxes like Lowes and Home Depot.
Contact meif youd like to discuss how to grow your big box sales.
Heres my 2-minute video recap of the differences between Lowes and Home Depot.
What is the biggest challenge to your sales growth?
Contact me for a free 30-minute mini consultation about your sales challenge. Well review your specific situation and Ill provide you with 2 or 3 strategies to help you solve your challenge. This call is all about you helping you solve your problem. I will not be selling you on why you should hire me. You decide whether youd like to learn more about working with us. Calls are available on a first-come-first-served basis, to request your free call contact me at
I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.
My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best ntact meto discuss your situation.
Learn more about how to enhance your relationship
with North Americas largest home improvement retailer.