While many small businesses face challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, Lowe’s is giving them a chance to get their products off the shelves of its stores and website.
Lowe CEO Marvin Ellison said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Tuesday that the home improvement retailer is teaming up with ABC’s “Shark Tank” star Daymond John to mentor contractors, listen to their pitches and restrict the pool to the best. The initiative will ultimately culminate in a one-day pitch competition judged by Lowe’s executives and moderated by John.
“We are thrilled to create the opportunity for the American Dream for an entrepreneur to get their products into a mass market to serve customers,” he said.
Home improvement retailer pledged $ 55 million in small business grants to support minority and women-owned businesses and rural small businesses, many of which struggled as Covid-19 spread, closed stores and created economic uncertainty.
Ellison said on Tuesday the new effort was inspired by the surge of interest and the great need. He said Lowe’s had received more than 800,000 grant applications since the program began in May.
“The demand for this program made us realize that we should be doing a lot more,” he said. “So we had an idea to try to have more products on our shelves and on Lowes.com that are coming from various contractors.”
The new initiative is called “Making it … With Lowe’s”. Small businesses can apply for the competition from September 15 to September 25.
Lowe’s tried to build relationships with professionals in the home, such as plumbers, contractors, and electricians, and try to earn more from their business. About 20% to 25% of its sales come from professionals, compared to about 45% at rival Home Depot. Lowe’s launched a loyalty program, added new products tailored to them, and began offering a free video tool that allows professionals to take virtual home tours during the pandemic. She recently started a tool rental business, which she plans to expand nationwide.
“We will be committed to serving this really, really important and very influential customer, while ensuring that our e-commerce business continues to be something customers think of first,” he said.
In addition to shining a light on small businesses, the pitch competition could help differentiate Lowe’s. This could add a unique assortment of products that customers cannot find at other retailers. The retailer already offers exclusive brands of power tools and other home improvement items.
Lowe’s benefited during the pandemic as Americans work, learn and spend more time at home. Customers refreshed their lawns, replaced their appliances, and completed DIY projects. This boosted second quarter revenue by 30% and website sales by 135%.
Shares rose about 1% early Tuesday. Its shares are up almost 38% so far this year.
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-grid cable rights to “Shark Tank”.
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