A Private Brand Challenge to Lowe’s New CEO Marvin Ellison

Mooresville, NC based home improvement retailer Lowe’s has found its next CEO in J.C. Penney CEO Marvin R. Ellison. The move closes a protracted search for a successor to the Lowe’s traditionalist Robert A. Niblock, who will retire in March.

Ellison’s move from the long-struggling department store J.C. Penney seems a bit premature as the promising turnaround he was leading is some time away from succeeding.

However, the move is not surprising for either Ellison or Lowe’s, in Ellison Lowe’s gets a retail and home improvement pro and at Lowe’s Ellison finally gets his chance to lead in home improvement. Before JCP he spent 12 years at Home Depot and another 15 in various roles at Target.

“Marvin is an experienced retail CEO with extensive expertise in a complex omnichannel consumer-facing company,” said Lowe’s board member Marshall O. Larsen in the official press release.

“Together, we will leverage Lowe’s omnichannel capabilities to deliver the most simple and seamless customer experiences as we execute with purpose and put the customer first in everything we do,” added Ellison.

As a former Lowe’s employee, I see Ellison’s hiring as an exciting opportunity for Lowe’s. As a private brand advocate and consultant, I see Ellison’s hiring as the perfect occasion to reinvent the Lowe’s private brand portfolio. An unparalleled opportunity to commit to a fearless path which designed to build true brand assets and ultimately create a compelling and differentiated experience.

Today, you have the time and resources to create a powerful and compelling private brand portfolio. There are no sacred cows, consolidate, optimize, grow, build for greatness. The home improvement landscape is no longer an orange and blue world, competitors are everywhere, in every channel and every corner of the world wide web.

Tomorrow new players emerge.

Tomorrow Amazon conquers home improvement.

Tomorrow will be too late.

Now is the time to commit to customer relevance, to commit to winning. Lowe’s can continue to play with low margin, low awareness “national brands” or you can own your own relevance and brand power.

Conquer the world with private brand.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.