Will Canadians love Lowe’s?

Home improvement giant Lowe's entered the Canadian market last December amid much fanfare. It struck many as a bold move, with Home Depot, Rona, Home Hardware and Canadian Tire already engaged in cutthroat competition.

Home improvement giant Lowe’s entered the Canadian market last December amid much fanfare. It struck many as a bold move, with Home Depot, Rona, Home Hardware and Canadian Tire already engaged in cutthroat competition.

The Mooresville, N.C.-based company opened stores in Hamilton, Brantford and Brampton, and then in Newmarket, Maple, Toronto and another Brampton location. (Toronto-HQ’ed Lowe’s Canada declined to comment for this article, citing competitive reasons.)

Lowe’s is supporting its Canadian launch with four 30-second TV spots by BBDO New York and BBDO Windsor that focus on superior customer service and ‘Every Day Low Prices.’ One pre-launch commercial features a cashier rehearsing her check-out routine, while another highlights the in-store help buttons customers can use to flag associates. The company is also distributing flyers around store locations, and has launched a Canadian-specific website, Lowes.ca, which relies heavily on content from its American counterpart, Lowes.com.

We asked James Fraser, partner and retail managing director at Toronto-based Capital C, and Dalan Bronson, Montreal-based principal and senior consultant at the J.C. Williams Group, whether Lowe’s has hit the nail on the head so far with its northern expansion.

Is there room for another home improvement brand in Canada?

Fraser: The retail home improvement sector has been on a massive upward curve in Canada, and all indicators point toward that trend continuing. The opportunity is to take their position in the market beyond geography, and deliver on their stated point of difference, which is customer service.

Bronson: My sense is that the market is already dangerously close to being overcrowded. Lowe’s will provide formidable competition, but it will be a fight for market share.

Brand promise

Fraser: There is always a place for superior customer service. Whole Foods built their brand on an insight that said the market was ready for a chain that put the shopper first. In the case of Lowe’s, executing the brand promise is the only thing that separates them from being a ‘me-too’ player.

Bronson: If Lowe’s can deliver on the commitment to superior customer service, I think it makes sense. The competitors don’t do a great job in this area. However, it will remain to be seen what Lowe’s defines as superior customer service, and if they can execute it.

Website

Fraser: The brand promise dies in the website, which looks like amateur hour. It is uninviting, uninspiring and copy-heavy. Unfortunately, if this is the first experience someone has with the brand, it has the potential to be the last. The good news is that it’s not too late to bring the web division into alignment with their marketing group.

Bronson: The website is acceptable, but nothing spectacular. Easy enough to navigate. I don’t find it particularly engaging…there’s a lot of text.

In-store experience

Fraser (as reported by a team member): The store was well laid out, with bold signage and directories telling shoppers where they were. There was at least one help station per department. When I pushed the help button, there was an announcement on the intercom, and a very pleasant rep came over right away. The store was pretty empty and there were many reps on hand. I can’t speak about the experience on a high-traffic day, but on this day, in this store, Lowe’s delivered.

The creds

BBDO New York and BBDO Windsor:

David Lubars, Bill Bruce, CCOs; Wil Boudreau, Steve Rutter, Kirk Fischer, CDs; Angelo Noal, senior copywriter; Jeff Robillard, senior AD