Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: A Lowe’s growth plan

In 1980, Robert Strickland and Leonard Herring visited Wall Street to talk growth.

BY HBSDealer Staff

The Nov. 10, 1980 issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, ran the headline: “Florida, Texas are focus of Lowe’s expansion plan.” In the photo, Lowe’s Chairman Robert Strickland and President Leonard Herring posed for our photographer outside the New York Stock Exchange. The two men had plans to double the footprint of the company, especially in fast-growing Florida and Texas.

Since that article appeared, the company’s footprint has grown by a factor of 10.

At the time, Lowe’s had 213 stores and had just announced plans to grow its store count by 10% annually. That marked a little bit of a slowdown from the 13% annual growth in stores the chain produced in the 1970s.

Whatever they did, it worked. In the 2018 HBSDealer Top 300 Industry Scoreboard, the company operated 2,152 stores. That figure will, however, decline somewhat in 2019. Read about the company’s plan to close some underperforming stores here.

Some of the top-of-mind growth ideas from 1980 included:

  • Promoting specialty centers with the stores. The article reported: “Lowe’s will also embrace more concept celling, promoting departments like specialty stores, with themes such as ‘Lowe’s, Your Security Center’ or ‘Lowe’s, Your Insulation Center.’”
  • Finding the right markets. In the early 1980s, Lowe’s strategy called for expansion in markets with between 20,000 to 120,000 households.
  • Nurturing new customers. “We have targeted women, young adult householders, and DIYers as more important new customers for the 1980s,” Strickland said.
  • Frugal financing. Herring said the company expected to finance its expansion through the 1980s without increasing long-term debt significantly.
  • Focus on the core, the residential building supply retailer of the 1980s. “We are not going after asset-plays, manufacturing adventures, or any other ‘grass-looks-greener’ pursuits,” Strickland said.

HBSDealer’s Throwback Thursday is sponsored by Schaffer Associates, a national management consulting firm specializing in executive search and organizational strategies for the hardware, home improvement, building materials, and consumer products industries. As the premier management consulting firm serving the industry, we help build organizations and leadership teams that foster corporate growth and success well into the future. Contact us at


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