Lowe’s installs new exec team
When Lowe’s announced the retirement of president and chief operating officer Larry Stone in January, it also announced the promotion of four senior executives, effectively forming a new management team under chairman and CEO Robert Niblock. Along with Greg Bridgeford, executive VP business development, and Michael Mabry, executive VP logistics and distribution, these four individuals will help lead the company through its planned transformation into a multi-platform provider of home improvement goods and services.
Executive VP store operations
Rick Damron is responsible for all Lowe’s stores and Lowe’s specialty sales businesses, including installed, special order, commercial sales, credit, delivery, assembly and store operations support.
Damron joined Lowe’s in 1981 and most recently served as senior VP logistics. He also served as senior VP operations for the North Central and Northeast Divisions. Prior to this, he held various positions, including regional VP, district manager and store manager.
Executive VP and chief information officer
Mike Brown came from the operations side of the business, having served most recently as executive VP, store operations and lowes.com.
His role now is to provide the vision and leadership for developing and implementing information technology initiatives in alignment with Lowe’s business strategy.
Brown joined Lowe’s in 1984 and previously served as senior VP store operations for Lowe’s South Central and West divisions, regional VP of the company’s Northeast division, merchandising VP and VP specialty sales (commercial business, special order and installed sales initiatives), and as a Lowe’s store manager.
Senior VP customer support services, call centers, flexible product fulfillment, appliance service/repair and Lowes.com
Doug Robinson takes over management of Lowes.com from Steven Stone, who had been chief information officer until leaving the company in January. He served as the first president of Lowe’s Canada from 2005 to 2007 after serving as a district manager in the United States. Before joining Lowe’s, he was president and CEO of Arxx Building Products in Ontario, Canada, and president and CEO of Beaver Lumber Co. in Toronto.
Senior VP strategy
Richard Maltsbarger previously served as VP strategic planning and VP research and director of customer analytics since joining Lowe’s in 2004. Maltsbarger is responsible for leading Lowe’s corporate strategy planning and alignment processes, as well as guiding strategic market insight development, including market sizing, industry structure, competitive intelligence and economic perspectives. Currently, he is also leading the corporate effort to launch Enterprise 2.0 efforts to bring Lowe’s more than 250,000 employees together into a more integrated work force.
Maltsbarger has held previous positions with IBM Global Business Solutions, Monsanto Co., Farmland Industries and the University of Missouri. He is a member of RILA’s Strategic Working Group, which helps evaluate the industry’s long-term challenges and opportunities and works with RILA to develop strategies to effectively address them.
A story under the headline “Sitting down on the job: The lawsuit” generated several letters, including the following:
“People stand all day in factories and in retail stores doing their jobs. Giving good customer service demands that clerks walk the store looking to help people. If we give them chairs, customer service is gone. What are they going to do, sit there expecting people to look for them? We are in a very competitive retail environment today, and to stay in business it means [standing up] and working.”
— Don Boulter
Battels Hardware & Tool Co.
“The state is definitely overreaching here. No wonder things cost us so much. These frivolous lawsuits come to haunt all of us in the form of unnecessary regulations and increased costs.”
— Joel Carvajal
Sales director, Northwest and Mountain States
“I think this is carrying it a bit too far. If you want to sit down somewhere, you will find a place. What’s next — make sure you feed me, and clothe me?”
— Chris from Indiana
“We have store locations throughout the United States, including California. The state of California and its laws result in more lawsuits and legal fees for us than all others state combined. Prop. 65, VOC regulations, ZIP code class actions suits related to California Credit Card Act, and on and on.
“We are no longer adding stores in the state as a result of the added costs of doing business in California. The litigious state of California has not only crossed the point of overreaching parenting, but has set into motion a future business climate that will push companies to do as little as possible within the state. For a state that is all but bankrupt, they seem to be oblivious to the values that made this country great.”
“This again shows the lunacy, not in just California, but in the federal government and judicial arena as well. This was probably started by yet another blood-sucking parasitic ‘trial attorney’ looking for a massive payday through a class action suit. He’ll extort hundreds of millions in fees, and the claimants will get a $10-off Coupon at ‘Chairs R Us.’ ”
— Online comment
A story under the headline “Dealer turned commando stops alleged thief” produced the following letters:
“No one in retail likes to lose product to a shoplifter. At the same time we are all jubilant when we recover our stolen goods. I have personally pursued and watched pursuits, and do believe that once a theft occurs and the product has left the building it is best to let the thief go on his or her way. I have asked myself after a number of personally involved occurrences: ‘What if?’ IF can be scary! Document the occurrence, advise loss prevention and contact the local authorities if advised.”
— David Thompson
“It’s not worth pursuing a shoplifter because our judicial system will just slap them on the wrist. The first company I worked for caught theft on video tape; a customer stole about $500 in tools. He was later arrested with some of the tools and received a $50.00 fine.”
— Bob Lacasse
Maki Building Centers
“Better a live coward than a dead hero.”
— Name withheld
An article last month under the title “Mark Baker to head OSH” generated the following comment:
“A great move for Mark and a greater move for Orchard Supply.”
— Online comment
Category Report: Power tools
Advancements in battery technology, more efficient tool engineering and ergonomic design have transformed the power tools segment in recent years. But this golden age of development and innovation hasn’t translated into sales growth, because all the major categories are in retreat, according to consumer data from The NPD Group.
Today’s power tools are generally smaller, yet just as potent; they are also versatile, longer-lasting and more durable. Lithium-ion battery technology improvements, in particular, have enabled manufacturers to develop cordless tools that are smaller and lighter, while maintaining or improving performance.
Perhaps the biggest trend is the one pushing consumers to “value-oriented” products. For instance, NiCd power tools still outsell other battery technologies. “Price is a direct component of this trend,” said Jonathan Patterson, product manager for Handy Hardware Wholesale Inc. “And while the price difference between [Li-ion and NiCd] might be narrowing, costs are still increasing for both. I see end users willing to pay for quality and brand names, but the final price still weighs heavily in their decision-making.”
Christine Potter, director of marketing for DeWalt Cordless Products, agrees there is still significant demand for NiCd batteries, “as they are a very proven job site solution,” she said. DeWalt’s strategy for its 18V line is to offer customers a choice. “All of our 18V tools accept either NiCd or Li-ion, giving our users a lot of flexibility,” she said.
Derek Vlcko, senior product manager at Porter-Cable, said that as more suppliers enter the lithium-ion market, prices will start to come down. Until then, he doesn’t see a lot of movement in Li-ion products. “We’re not going to see anything ground-breaking,” he said. “For the most part, we have seen incremental changes. It has kind of stabilized.”
In the 12V category, however, 12V Li-ion has been the fastest-growing segment of professional power tools over the last two years, according to Potter. “With the small size and light weight, many professional users are finding these tools as an ideal complement to their 18V line,” she said.
Not just battery technology
When it comes to improving run-time, batteries usually get all the credit. However, suppliers say steps have been taken to improve the efficiency of the tools themselves so that the energy from the battery is used more effectively. “A battery is like a gas tank on a car; it is how much fuel you have to work with,” Potter said. “The car’s transmission and motor design greatly impact how efficiently that fuel is used. A tool works the same way. There have been a lot of advancements in engineering simulations, as well as materials that have resulted in our tools’ motors, transmissions, clutches and switches becoming more efficient, thus giving our users more run-time.”
Combo kits growing
Combo kits have been on a steady ascent since debuting in the mid-1990s and now represent a sizable portion of the cordless professional market. DeWalt’s own research shows the average cordless user owns six tools and six batteries and that the combo kit is chosen as the way to first enter a cordless system. “Users value standardizing on a system so that they only need one type of charger on the site, and so that all the batteries are interchangeable should one run out of power,” Potter said.
Within the Do it Best network, sets are gaining ground, with NiCd leading the way. “The lithium sets I’ve seen growing sales are the smaller two- or three-piece sets, where the NiCd are mainly four or more piece counts,” Patterson said.
While pricing continues to sway the category, features on tools continue to improve. For example, keyless chucks and blade clamps as well as on-board LED lighting have become standard on most professional products. “Attention is constantly given to make sure the tools are comfortable and balanced for our users, as they will spend the entire work day with our products,” Potter said. “This includes focus on areas like grip design, controls and actuators. We also spend time monitoring demographics of the work force and incorporate that data into the designs.”
“Our combo kits are humming,” Vlcko said. “Our two-kit and four-kit combo sets are doing exceptionally well, and both DIYers and professionals are enjoying the versatility of the tools.”