Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
New features contributed to a big year online, says CEO Robert Niblock.
Add home improvement merchant Lowe’s Cos. Inc. to the list of chain retailers taking the web more seriously these days.
Though he didn’t break out any specific numbers, CEO Robert Niblock told Wall Street analysts that e-commerce sales grew by 70% in 2011 as a direct result of the company’s bigger commitment to the web.
“We made incremental improvements to our e-commerce platform, fueling a 22% increase in traffic and a 35% increase in conversion rates, resulting in a 70% increase in e-commerce sales year over year,” Niblock told analysts. “At the end of the fourth quarter, we had over 250,000 items available online and our mobile app, which launched this past August, is one of the highest-rated retail apps in the Apple Store.”
In 2011, Lowes, No. 91 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 made several improvements to its e-commerce site, including rolling out MyLowes.com, a new interactive suite of tools that gives shoppers more customized ways to create and store room designs, check out available inventory across stores and the web, and create and store folders and lists to organize products, projects and ideas. Other tools also let web shoppers see their purchase histories across all channels and access warranties and product manuals from product detail pages.
“This past October, we launched MyLowe’s as a revolutionary new online tool that is unique in the home improvement industry and makes managing, maintaining and improving homes simpler than it's ever been,” Niblock told analysts. “This is a very relevant and personalized offering where customers can create home profiles, save room dimensions and paint colors, organize owners' manuals and product warranties, create shopping to-do and wish lists for future projects, set recurring reminders for common maintenance items and store purchase history from all sales channels.”
At the end of the year Lowes also purchased ATG Stores, an online retailing company that operates more than 500 home improvement and related microsites, for an undisclosed amount. But the acquisition did not have an impact on Lowe’s growth online in 2011, Niblock said.
“Specific to 2011's 70% increase it had zero impact from the acquisition of ATG Stores because that was all based on more items online, more multichannel sales,” Niblock told analysts. “As we think about growing that business going forward, we have a target of roughly double the number of SKUs online in 2012 relative to 2011. ATG is certainly is going to help us. We bought a very interesting technology company that has a lot of good things going, that has roughly 3.5 million items online, a number of which we'll make available on Lowes.com in 2012.
In 2011 Lowes reported:
- Total sales increased about 2.9% to $50.20 billion from $48.81 billion in 2010
- Comparable-store sales increased 3.4%
- Net earnings declined about 9% to $1.83 billion from $2.01 billion.