Lowe’s and Homegrown Home Improvement

Lowes founded his first store in North Wilkesboro in 1921. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.On August 1, 1952, Lowe’s Home Improvement was incorporated.

The chain can trace its roots to 1921 when I. S. Lowe founded a hardware store in North Wilkesboro. His son, Jim Lowe, and son-in-law, Carl Buchan, took over the store after his death, but the two disagreed on whether or not to expand the business, and Buchan ultimately bought out Lowe.

Lowe's LogoBuchan recognized the post-World War II building boom that was coming to the county, and narrowed Lowe’s focus to selling only hardware, appliances and building materials (at the time hardware stores tending to sell a lot of general merchandise). He quickly tied the company’s reputation to low prices, buying products directly from manufacturers and operating on very slim profit margins to keep costs.

Buchan’s model took off, and by 1960, Lowe’s had 15 stores and $30 million in annual sales. The company continued to grow quickly in the 1960s and 70s by focusing on selling primarily to contractors. After a new chairman took over in 1978, the hardware chain began marketing directly to the general public.

Still based in North Carolina, Lowe’s is one of the nation’s 50 largest companies, according to Fortune. It operates nearly 2,000 stores across the United States and Canada, and had  revenues of more than $52 billion in 2014.

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