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DIY projects ramp up in pandemic and so do sales at Lowe’s

By Michelle Chapman and Anne D’innocenzio, AP Business Writers

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. became the latest big box retailer to report surging sales during the fiscal second quarter as Americans are finding more ways to improve their home during the pandemic.

Comparable store sales in the U.S. spiked 35.1% at Lowe’s, and online orders more than doubled.

The report, issued Wednesday, comes one day after Home Depot reported similarly explosive sales.

Lowe’s move to revamp its outdated online business paid off in the fiscal first quarter, as shoppers shut in because of the pandemic shifted to online services for supplies for their do-it-yourself home projects. Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison told analysts during the earnings call Wednesday that many of these projects weren’t planned on the list, but were extra projects.

“Customers are finding projects around the house,” he said. “We don’t see this as pull-forward. We see this as incremental.”

During a call with The Associated Press, Ellison said that some of the money from the government stimulus checks is spurring sales, but shoppers are also diverting their spending away from traveling and other areas toward the home.

Lowe’s revenue for the three months ended July 31 climbed to $27.3 billion from $21 billion, the company said Wednesday, far better than the $24.85 billion analysts expected, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Online sales soared 135%, while same-store sales, including those outside the U.S., rose 34.2%.

Ellison said in a prepared statement that customers seemed mostly focused on repair and maintenance of their homes.

At the same time, many are focused on finding a new home with more space for an office from which to work remotely, or one with a yard rather than a stoop.

On Tuesday the Commerce Department reported that construction of new U.S. homes surged 22.6% last month. The department said that new homes were started at an annual pace of nearly 1.5 million in July, the highest since February and well above what economists were expecting.

The National Association of Realtors said last month that its index of pending sales rose 16.6%, to 116.1 in June, its highest level since 2006.

Lowe’s earned $2.83 billion, or $3.74 per share, in the quarter. Removing restructuring costs, earnings were $3.75 per share. That’s better than the $3.03 per share Wall Street expected.

Shares of Lowe’s Cos., based in Mooresville, North Carolina, climbed slightly Wednesday and are hovering at around $158.

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