In 2018, Lowe’s e-commerce site crashed on the worst day possible for any retailer: Black Friday. 

Customers began to complain about lack of access to the site on social media, and the company reportedly temporarily shut down the site and relaunched later in the day. 

When the company started investigating the reasons behind the crash, the answer was “very simple,” Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison said. “The entire e-commerce site was a decade old.” 

Ellison realized that the primary thing the company had to do was get the site on the cloud, “so we would not have the volume limitations and we could also have the ability to make the necessary updates and changes,” Ellison told a crowd last week at the National Retail Federation’s conference in New York City. 

“We went to work on the fundamentals,” Ellison said, as the company worked to develop its operations. 

And focusing on the foundational elements of retail helped Lowe’s to be ready when COVID-19 hit the United States a couple of years later. Demand in the home improvement category surged, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, as people’s residences served as the primary location for work, school and entertainment. 

“If we had not made those investments in retail fundamentals, it would have been a catastrophically bad environment for our customers, and to us as a company,” Ellison said. 

Even as demand has slowed for the sector overall, Lowe’s emerged from the pandemic as a “much stronger, more profitable and far larger business,” according to comments last year by GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders.

Retail overall has seen consumer pullback in recent months due to inflation, but Lowe’s and rival Home Depot have continued to report strong earnings. In the company’s most recent quarter, Lowe’s reported Q3 net sales were up 2.4% to $22.5 billion, although the company narrowed its full-year outlook, now expecting sales between $97 billion and $98 billion, from a prior estimate of $97 billion to $99 billion.

“I always tell people, the most important part of a construction project is the foundation,” Ellison said. “It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t sexy. But it requires the level of work that you put in so you can build a structure quickly and the structure can be stable.”


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