It makes sense that shoppers have flocked to Lowe's (LOW 0.89%) during the coronavirus pandemic. The home improvement chain sells cleaning products and basics like paper towels, trash bags, and other necessities.

Those items have likely been selling, but the chain has also had success in a surprising category. CEO Marvin Ellison shared some details with Fortune that explained what has been selling and why.

Lowe's workers load a pickup truck.

Lowe's has stayed open during the coronavirus pandemic. Image source: Lowe's.

What is Lowe's surprise winner?

The chain has seen an uptick in sales of appliances. This has been led by people buying freezers and refrigerators to help them prepare for extended quarantines and social distancing, Ellison said. Lowe's has also seen an increase in people buying hot water heaters.

"We feel good about where we are, but this is a very fluid situation," Ellison said. "We just don't know what the trends are going to be in two weeks or three weeks."

Ellison refused to specifically say how his company was doing except that it's holding its own. That's a somewhat vague statement, but it makes sense given the uncertainty of the situation.

The strong will win

Lowe's entered the coronavirus pandemic in a strong position and it may exit it even stronger. The retailer is filling both crucial and less essential needs for its customers during this trying time. That should enhance customers' loyalty among regulars while also exposing some new shoppers to the chain.