Lucius S. Lowe opened Lowe's North Wilkesboro Hardware in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1921. The business was inherited by his daughter, Ruth, when Lucius died in 1940. She sold the company to her brother, Jim, that same year. Jim Lowe and Ruth's husband, Carl Buchan, both served in World War II, and during the war, the store was run by Ruth and her mother. Jim took on Carl (honorably discharged after receiving an injury) as a partner in 1943.
Under Buchan's management, the store focused on hardware and building materials. Before then, the product mix had also included notions, dry goods, horse tack, snuff, produce, and groceries. The company bought a second store in Sparta, North Carolina, in 1949.
Carl Buchan and Jim Lowe differed on expanding the company to new areas, and they split in 1952, with Buchan taking control of the hardware and building supply business, and Lowe taking other joint ventures the two controlled, including a car dealership. Buchan became the sole owner of Lowe's.
In 1960, Carl Buchan died of a heart attack at age 44. His five-man executive team, which included Robert Strickland and Leonard Herring, took the company public in 1961. By 1962 Lowe's operated 21 stores and reported annual revenues of $32 million.
Lowe's continued to expand throughout the southeast United States.
It suffered in the 1980s, due to market conditions and increasing competition from the new big-box chain, The Home Depot. For a while, Lowe's resisted adopting the big-box format, partly because Lowe's management believed that the smaller towns where Lowe's mostly operated would not support huge stores. However, Lowe's eventually had to adopt the big-box format in order to survive. Today most Lowe's stores are of the big-box variety, though some classic format stores remain in smaller markets.
Lowe's has since grown nationally, aided by the purchase of Eagle Hardware & Garden in 1999. It is now the second-largest home improvement chain in North America, and has begun expanding outside the United States, starting with the Southern Ontario area. The first store outside of United States was in Hamilton, Ontario at Barton Street and Woodward Avenue.
Lowe's offers customers about 40,000 products in stock and more through a Special Order Service.
In 2006, Lowe's partnered with designer Marianne Cusato to develop and offer affordable house plans for the hurricane-affected Gulf region. Lowe's is the exclusive retailer for both the plans and building materials for the Lowe's Katrina Cottage. They offer easy construction and affordability, as well as the possibility of expansion. Moreover, they meet all international building codes and exceed hurricane codes.
Lowe's has a wide variety of television and radio commercials. A significant number of different racing-inspired commercials can be seen and are often played outside of television race coverage. Gene Hackman's voice can be heard on many commercial advertisements for Lowe's.
In 2006, Lowe's began sponsoring the radio broadcast booth of the New York Yankees. Frequently during every game Yankees announcer John Sterling states "We are coming to you live from the Lowe's Broadcast Booth. Lowe's: Let's build something together."
Lowe's and other landscaping companies landscape some areas of Busch Gardens Europe.
The corporation is the primary sponsor for 2006 & 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Chevrolet Impala SS and a part time sponsor of the #5 Nationwide Series team; both teams are owned by Hendrick Motorsports. Prior to the current sponsorship deal with Hendrick Motorsports, Lowe's was the sponsor of the #31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing driven by Mike Skinner and Robby Gordon from 1997 to 2001. Prior to the RCR deal, Lowe's was the primary sponsor of the #11 Ford driven by Brett Bodine for Junior Johnson And Associates, and later, Brett's own team, Brett Bodine Racing (after Bodine bought the #11 team from Johnson).
Lowe's also sponsors Fernandez Racing in the American Le Mans Series and previously sponsored the team in the Rolex Sports Car Series; in that series, Lowe's sponsors the #99 Gainsco Stallings Racing Pontiac in events where Johnson is driving..
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Lowe's Canada opened its first three stores on December 10 2007, in Hamilton, Brampton and Brantford. On February 1 2008, they opened three more stores in Toronto, East Gwillimbury and a second store in Brampton. Currently, a Barrie store is under construction.
Each store represents an average investment of $20.5 million ($20.4 million USD).
Six company holidays are standard including New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. All holidays except Thanksgiving and Christmas are working holidays, with full-time employees receiving eight hours of holiday pay which can now be banked and utilized, and part-time employees receiving four.
Full-time hourly employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation after one year of service, three weeks after five years of service, and four weeks after fifteen years of service, while salaried corporate employees with prior experience often receive two weeks of vacation immediately. Lowe's also offers a comprehensive service reward to long-term employees, such as additional vacation time and a series of gifts, ranging from a two-year pin to a thirty-year Rolex watch.
Lowe's offers a 401(k) plan is available after six months of employment. Employees are given a wide selection of mutual funds to invest in, as well as company stock. In addition, Lowe's contributes a baseline match to all employees following 180 days of service. Employees can contribute up to 50% of their paycheck, and the company will fully match the first 3% and partially match up to 6%.
Lowe's markets itself internally and externally as a customer-focused organization in contrast to Home Depot, a contractor-oriented organization. While both companies employ specialists from their respective fields, Lowe's provides a supplemental commission-pay structure with a philosophy of retaining energized quality staffing, while Home Depot's employees are paid a flat salary. The marketing strategy between Lowe's and Home Depot is similar to the strategy between Target and Wal-Mart, with Lowe's stressing a softer and kinder image, appealing to women.
The first case was filed in October 2002 by employees of the Lowe's store in Shawnee, Kansas. In September 2005, the cases was certified as class action. Lowe's has four similar cases in New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The lawsuits for New York, Indiana and Kansas resulted in an out of court settlement on September 22, 2006. The settlement was paid within the first two weeks of November 2007.
The lawsuit in Pennsylvania became a class-action lawsuit in June 2004, with 550 employees.
The case in Ohio was filed by ten former Lowe’s employees, in August 2004.