Lowe’s and MDA

Building something together

by Amy Madsen on January 1, 2008 - 3:24pm

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 1

Walk into almost any Lowe’s home improvement store between Feb. 15 and March 17, and the first thing you see may be dazzling displays of green and gold adorning the walls. Since 2001, the hardware giant has partnered with MDA in selling Shamrocks Against Dystrophy mobiles, to bring hope and help to people affected by neuromuscular diseases across the country.

The Lowe’s story — both its company history and its partnership with MDA — is one of small beginnings leading to fantastic results.

A home improvement mainstay

With more than 1,425 stores in 49 states, approximately 210,000 employees and upwards of 13 million shoppers each week, Lowe’s lays claim to a significant share of America’s do-it-yourself home improvement market. The company posted $46.9 billion in sales for fiscal 2006 and ranked No. 45 among public corporations listed on the Fortune 500.

Despite its size, Lowe’s continues to display the values and commitment to community that come from its humble, small-town roots.

Founded in North Carolina in 1946, Lowe’s started out as a joint venture for brothers-in-law Carl Buchan and James Lowe. The single, small-town hardware store initially sold such items as overalls and snuff, work boots and horse collars.

Buchan later bought out Lowe and poised the business to fuel the post-World War II building boom, with an inventory focused mainly on hardware, appliances and hard-to-find building materials. The company’s reputation for low prices led to a steady increase in sales and the opening of additional stores throughout North Carolina.

In 1961, Lowe’s had its initial public offering of stock and by 1979 it was trading on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1982, sales topped the $1 billion mark as the company continued to open bigger stores with a wider selection of merchandise.

And things continued to grow from there.

Since 1994, every new Lowe’s store has more than 85,000 square feet of selling space. By 2006, the company was opening a new store an average of every three days — 117,000-square-foot stores in larger markets, and 94,000-square-foot stores in small to mid-sized markets. Today, Lowe’s is the second-largest home improvement retailer worldwide and the seventh-largest retailer of any sort in the United States.

Strong commitment to community

Throughout Lowe’s rise from a North Carolina hardware store to dominant force in the world home improvement industry, the company has retained its commitment to community involvement.

Employees show off a Shamrocks display at Lowe's in Clearwater, Fla.
Employees show off a Shamrocks Against Dystrophy display at Lowe’s in Clearwater, Fla.

Through programs such as Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation and Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, and in partnership with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and others, Lowe’s strives to make a positive difference for communities at both the grassroots and national levels.

Lowe’s participation in MDA’s Shamrocks Against Dystrophy program is another example of big results springing from small beginnings. Participating retailers sell the colorful green and gold Shamrock mobiles each year prior to St. Patrick’s Day.

In 2001, Lowe’s stores in three states — Washington, Oregon and Idaho — sold $53,617 worth of the good-luck symbols to benefit “Jerry’s kids.” By the next year that figure nearly doubled and has risen steadily since then. For the past three years, Lowe’s representatives have presented checks on the national broadcast of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. Lowe’s now boasts Shamrocks sales at stores in 37 states, with more than $2.5 million raised for MDA since that small start in 2001.

Support at every level

The Shamrocks program not only helps fund MDA’s research, services and information programs, but offers Lowe’s employees a chance to have fun and engage in friendly competition while making a meaningful difference in the lives of so many.

“This has always been a great event,” says Dennis Knowles, senior vice president of store operations. “It’s a great cause and a super morale event for the stores, too.”

From management to associates, everyone gets involved, and as Shamrocks are sold they’re posted in creative — often fantastic — displays for everyone to see.

“The Shamrocks Against Dystrophy campaign has become something that our store employees look forward to and talk about during the year,” says Lowe’s Regional Vice President Jeff Starnes. “They see it not only as a way to support a great cause, but also as a way to drive some competitiveness in and among the stores.”

Starnes says customers also respond positively to the program, often commenting how happy they are to see Lowe’s supporting MDA. “They’re excited to have their Shamrock be part of the great displays the stores make with them,” he says.

Many Lowe’s associates take their dedication to helping their neighbors and improving communities one step further, participating in MDA walks or other fundraising events, or helping out at MDA summer camp.

But it’s with the power of a simple Shamrock that Lowe’s makes its biggest mark in the fight to cure muscular dystrophy.

“It’s a great partnership and win,” Starnes says, “for our employees and for MDA.”

No votes yet
MDA cannot respond to questions asked in the comments field. For help with questions, contact your local MDA office or clinic or email publications@mdausa.org. See comment policy