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Lowe’s is an interesting company both as compared with retail companies in general and with it’s primary competitor, Home Depot.
One only needs to walk into each store to see the difference. While Home Depot has tried to catch up by improving lighting and adding “retail” appliance and plumbing showrooms, it is still a warehouse as opposed to Lowe’s retail stores. As a warehouse, it is dirty, grungly, and at least in the New York City area, generally not staffed with helpful employees.
Recent (2016) newspaper stories have also highlighted a significant way that Lowe’s differs from many other retail operations. Employees get their schedules at least a week in advance! And if employees come in and the store isn’t as busy as expected, they still work their scheduled shift (unless they want to leave early). Pay and benefits also differ significantly from retail generally. While Lowe’s pay is not on par with Costco, it is significantly better from the typical retail store. As a result, Lowe’s is able to attract more competent employees and has less turnover, so it is easier to find competent help in a Lowe’s store.
But Lowe’s is not perfect. The bigest problem is management. It is extremely difficult to bring an issue to the corporate level, past the huge mush that is middle management. And there is clearly a problem at the top given the turnover among the most senior managers. You can read about some of the HR issues here. And you can read about some safety issues here.
Note: The above comments were written in 2016. Since then the management team has been replaced. Marvin Ellison has been brought in after a career at Home Depot making it a very unpleasant place to shop, he appears to be following a similar plan at Lowes so the above comments may no longer be valid.