Lowe’s departments, through the years

The (complicated) sequel to Home Depot's category-sales breakdown.

Last week, published an interactive chart that tracked Home Depot’s annual sales by merchandising department. The article climbed to the top of the pageview charts, and also generated some reader questions.

One question asked was along the lines of “How is it that ‘Indoor Garden’ is the top sales department for Home Depot?”

Here’s the answer: The Home Depot’s $15.5 billion Indoor Garden department, perhaps counterintuitively, includes sales of big-ticket outdoor power equipment.

Another question: “Can you do a similar chart for Lowe’s?”

That question is more complicated, but the short answer is “yes.” And you can watch the categories jostle for position in the interactive chart above.

Lowe's currently tracks 16 major merchandise categories, led by Appliances.

While Home Depot’s 14 merchandise categories have remained similar (if not identical) over the years, Lowe’s financial reports have used many different terms and combinations of terms to describe its departments.

The Mooresville, N.C.-based retail giant tracks 15 merchandise categories currently (plus “Other”). But an inspection of Lowe’s annual reports going back to 2001 shows no fewer than 39 different terms used to describe its departments over the years.

For instance, Lowe’s annual reports tracked “home organization,” until about 2010, when “Home fashions, storage and cleaning” appeared in its charts. The description “home fashions” took over briefly in 2015, then disappeared. Currently, Lowe’s uses the term “Décor” ($3.7 billion in sales last year). The variety of descriptions prevent an accurate apples-to-apples comparison over the years, but the chart above will still provide insights into growth spurts and general sales patterns. 

As categories swap relative positions or fall off completely as the nomenclature changes, note that one and only one category remains on the list with a consistent description over the past two decades. That category is “Other.”

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