Home Depot Innovates to Stay Ahead of Lowe’s

Home Depot and Lowe’s are similar in many ways yet different in others. Home Depot has recently announced several initiatives, one of which could give it a lead in targeting today’s demanding consumer.

Apr 1, 2014 at 4:00PM
Home Depot


Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) are constantly competing for customers. One on hand, it's a negative for both companies that the other one exists. If all current Lowe's customers shopped at Home Depot, it would be one of the greatest growth stories on the planet -- still.

On the other hand, it's good for these companies that the other exists. Competition breeds success, and this is no exception. For instance, Home Depot knows that it must continue to innovate in order to stay ahead of its arch-rival. When companies constantly innovate, business usually improves. 

Omnichannel integration
One of Home Depot's latest initiatives is to improve its omnichannel integration. In other words, Home Depot wants to improve the customer experience by making it easier for people to shop when, where, and how they want -- whether it be in-store, online, or on a mobile device. In order for a retailer to survive, let alone thrive, in today's consumer environment, it must offer a seamless omnichannel experience. In fact, a lot of Home Depot's IT spend goes to omnichannel

For an example as to why this is so important, consider the following facts. Approximately 10% of online orders are actually generated in the store -- when a customer is talking to an employee. Approximately 30% of online orders are picked up in-store. This, in turn, increases the odds of a customer picking up an extra item while in the store. In fact, approximately 20% of customers opting for in-store pick-up buy an additional item while at the store.

Home Depot currently has several key initiatives, which include the improvement of the customer experience, the development of a new supply chain, and increased traffic (in-store and online). In regards to the online business, Home Depot now has rapid deployment centers, which have improved in-stock rates, churns, and customer service. Another long-term goal is to improve customer delivery times. And then there's the HD Pro Xtra loyalty program. 

Demand for free is always high
Home Depot is constantly looking for ways to drive more traffic to its stores. What makes HD Pro Xtra unique is that it's exclusively offered to professionals, primarily contractors. 

The best part for contractors is that this loyalty program is free. This could lead to sustainable demand, which would then lead to increased sales for Home Depot -- contingent upon the housing market remaining strong. 

HD Pro Xtra loyalty program benefits include assortment planning tools (helping improve inventory), reloadable cards that can be shared throughout a business (no phone approvals -- saves time and money), real-time pricing and images for sales proposals, free estimator tools, purchase tracking tools (easier bookkeeping), special offers, business tools, and email offers/receipts.

Despite all the aforementioned initiatives, its still difficult for Home Depot to establish and maintain a strong lead over Lowe's. 

Same breed
Home Depot and Lowe's are trading at 22 and 23 times  earnings, respectively. Also consider top-line performances over the past five years. Over this period, Home Depot has growing its top line 13.3% while Lowe's has grown its top line by 11.2%. Over the past year, Lowe's has grown its top line 5.9% while Home Depot has grown its top line 3.6%. Even debt-to-equity ratios are similar. Home Depot sports a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.2, whereas Lowe's is slightly more impressive in this category with a debt-to-equity ratio of about 0.9. 

One big difference between these two companies is the all-important cash flow. Over the past year, Home Depot has generated $7.6 billion in operational cash flow, whereas Lowe's has generated $4.1 billion in operational cash flow. And then there's dividend yield. Home Depot currently yields 2.4%, whereas Lowe's yields 1.4%.

If you're looking for a company that's growing faster than both Home Depot and Lowe's, then you might want to consider Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW). It has grown its top line by 36.4% over the past five years, and it's currently trading at a respectable 28 times earnings. It has generated positive operational cash flow of approximately $1.1 billion over the past year, sports a decent debt-to-equity ratio of slightly less than 1, and currently offers a dividend yield of 1.1%.

Sherwin-Williams has also outperformed Home Depot and Lowe's over the past three years concerning stock appreciation. Over this time frame, Sherwin-Williams has seen its stock appreciate 153.8%, while Home Depot and Lowe's have experienced stock price appreciation 136.9% and 98.28%, respectively.

The Foolish takeaway
Sherwin-Williams is a company that you might want to dig deeper on. Regarding Home Depot vs. Lowe's, it's a constant innovation battle. Home Depot's focus on omnnichannel integration should eventually see traction. Home Depot also generates more cash flow, which should lead to more innovative opportunities, the potential for increased capital to shareholders, and the option of paying off debt.

While both Home Depot and Lowe's are quality companies, keep a close eye on mortgage rates. They won't stay low forever. If the 30-year fixed mortgage rate goes significantly higher, then the housing market could stumble, which would impact home-improvement stores. Please do your own research prior to making any investment decisions.

3 high-potential investments for the long haul....
As every savvy investor knows, Warren Buffett didn't make billions by betting on half-baked stocks. He isolated his best few ideas, bet big, and rode them to riches, hardly ever selling. You deserve the same. That's why our CEO, legendary investor Tom Gardner, has permitted us to reveal The Motley Fool's 3 Stocks to Own Forever. These picks are free today! Just click here now to uncover the three companies we love. 


Dan Moskowitz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot and Sherwin-Williams. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers