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Lowe’s says pandemic-fueled home improvement demand could cool in year ahead

An employee organizes buckets for sale inside a Lowe’s Cos. store in Burbank, California.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lowe’s sales outlook disappointed investors on Wednesday and raised concerns that the pandemic-fueled boom in do-it-yourself and decorating projects is cooling.

Shares dropped by as much as 4% in premarket trading. Then rose slightly later on Wednesday morning as new data from homebuilders showed high housing demand — even during a typically slow season and during a period of inflation. That backdrop coupled with Lowe’s executive comments about the possibility for market share gains, help the stock bounce back.

During an analyst meeting, Chief Financial Officer Dave Denton said the retailer anticipates its sales will outpace competitors and it will win more market share with home professionals. Still he acknowledged that Lowe’s is preparing for a “modest sector pullback in 2022” when compared with a year of such high demand and sales fueled by government stimulus.

Lowe’s sales have gotten a lift from Americans who fixed up their yards, tackled DIY projects and redecorated rooms during the pandemic. Even as some of those “nesting trends” recede, however, its sales have been buoyed by the strong real estate market.

But for fiscal 2022, Lowe’s said it anticipates same-store sales could drop by as much as 3% or be roughly flat with this year. Total sales will range from $94 billion to $97 billion in the upcoming fiscal year. That fell below analysts’ estimates of $97.64 billion, according to Refinitiv.

Lowe’s is estimating sales of about $95 billion for this fiscal year, which is one week shorter than next fiscal year.

For fiscal 2022, Lowe’s expects to earn between $12.25 and $13.00 per share. On average, analysts were expecting Lowe’s to earn $12.93 per share, according to Refinitiv.

CEO Marvin Ellison said the company can keep driving growth by launching new private labels, expanding its e-commerce business and becoming a one-stop shop for supplies to help senior age in their own homes. For example, he said it is debuting a modern decor brand called Origin 21. He said it is speeding up deliveries of big and bulky purchases, such as appliances, with a new pilot in Florida and Ohio. That more efficient process is boosting profits and customer satisfaction, he said.

Together, he said, those efforts will “expand our share of wallet with both the DIY and pro customers.”

He said the retailer will benefit from a favorable backdrop, too, including more money in consumers’ savings accounts, historically low interest rates, rising home values and an aging inventory of U.S. homes. About two-thirds of the company’s sales are driven by repairs and maintenance, he said.

Plus, he said the pandemic has inspired people to invest more in their homes, from millennials who are buying first homes to baby boomers who are adapting an older home.

“There’s been a longer term shift in the consumer mindset about the importance of the home,” he said. “Our view of the home is a sanctuary that may need to serve several multiple purposes: residence, office, school, gym, and a gathering place for indoor and outdoor entertainment. And given the extension of remote work, we’re expecting a permanent step up in repair and maintenance cycle.”

Separately, the company said it plans to buy back about $12 billion in shares both this year and next year.

As of Tuesday’s close, Lowe’s shares are up 57% this year. Shares closed Tuesday at $252.46, down 1.86%. The company’s market value is $170.10 billion.

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