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Comparing the Big 3: Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards

The three largest big-box home improvement retailers in the U.S. have unique stories.

Lowe’s, as the oldest, began in 1921 as an independently owned single store that grew to 15 locations before it became an investor-owned business in 1961. Read Lowe’s 360 from the August issue of Hardware Retailing here.

Menards is the second oldest of the companies, having opened its first lumber store in 1964, and is still privately owned by the Menard family. Read Menards 360 here.

And Home Depot, the biggest and youngest of the three, was an ambitious upstart in in the 1970s. The company began as a big-box discounter and first outpaced Lowe’s sales in 1990—11 years after the first Home Depot locations opened. Home Depot has seen higher net sales than Lowe’s ever since. Read Home Depot 360 here.

According to its annual report, Home Depot had 2,291 stores and net sales of $110.2 billion in 2019. In contrast, Lowe’s operated 1,977 store locations and saw net sales of $72.1 billion.

On the other hand, Menards, which is a more regional company with stores in 14 states, had 325 stores at the end of the year. Menards is a private company and does not release financial information publicly. However, the National Retail Federation estimates Menards’ sales were $12.1 billion in 2019.

Other Prior 360-Degree Company Profiles

For seven years running, Hardware Retailing has published an in-depth 360-degree profile of a big-box competitor that vies for many of the same customer dollars as independent home improvement retailers do.

Check out the following 360s for refreshers on the accomplishments and histories of other key players. In addition to Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menards, Hardware Retailing has highlighted Target, Walmart, Tractor Supply Co. and Amazon.

Target has a reputation as the big-box retailer with flair, attracting everyone from grocery shoppers to fashionistas eager to purchase celebrity-designed clothing and housewares lines.

Earth’s biggest traditional retailer has an impressive resume: logistics powerhouse, everyday-low-price pioneer, global influencer and billionaire maker.

Tractor Supply Co.
Tractor Supply Company, a long-time specialty retailer, has emerged as a retail innovator and is evolving as it goes.

Arguably no company has made a greater effect on e-commerce, or retailing in general, over the past decade than Amazon.

About Kate Klein

Kate is profiles editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. She reports on news and industry events and writes about retailers' unique contributions to the independent home improvement sector. She graduated from Cedarville University in her home state of Ohio, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English and minored in creative writing. She loves being an aunt, teaching writing to kids, running, reading, farm living and, as Walt Whitman says, traveling the open road, “healthy, free, the world before me.”

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