Lowe’s to become exclusive retailer for Sherwin-Williams’ paint

Lowe’s and Valspar owner Sherwin-Williams are deepening a decades-old relationship, making the home improvement retailer the sole distributor in the home category of popular paint brands including Minwax, Cabot, and Thompson’s WaterSeal.

Sherwin-Williams will continue to operate its own retail storefronts, as it skips over other major retailers for outside distribution in this deal.

The news comes as Lowe’s fights to keep pace with rival Home Depot, which recently revealed its plans to partner with Tesla to sell solar panels in its stores. The two companies compete within the industry to win the best brands that, in turn, will attract more shoppers. Last October, for example, Stanley Black & Decker tapped Lowe’s as the next retail destination for its Craftsman tool brand.

In securing an exclusive deal with Sherwin-Williams, Lowe’s aims to be the go-to retailer for do-it-yourself, or DIY, shoppers. That category of consumers has been growing, and painting is consistently a top DIY project in the U.S.

“We do a tremendous amount of research related to customer preferences,” said Lowe’s Chief Customer Officer Mike McDermott. “And through that analysis we draw insights, which have led us to some of the most important brands” that shoppers are requesting, Sherwin-Williams being one of those.

“We have been very strategic in our approach,” he added. “We don’t do these exclusive partnerships with every vendor.” In doubling down on a deal with Sherwin-Williams, Lowe’s will phase out other paint brands in stores over time.

Meanwhile, Lowe’s will also be ramping up investments in its stores, specifically in the paint department.

The company is adapting its paint service model and equipping employees with more knowledge on Sherwin-Williams’ merchandise. Refurbished locations will soon include a new paint product display and redesigned “paint desks,” where workers for that department normally sit, ready to answer shoppers’ questions.

Late last year, Lowe’s was targeted by activist investor D.E. Shaw & Co. for not performing well enough relative to its peers. The company said it is working toward changing those perceptions.

“The biggest opportunity we have in stores is to improve selection and the product experience for our customers,” McDermott said. “We see greater opportunity for efficiency. … Customers continue to tell us they want the best brands and the highest level of quality.”

Lowe’s shares have climbed about 25 percent from a year ago, while Home Depot’s stock is up roughly 27 percent over the same period.

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