SHORING UP A SHAKY FOUNDATION.

Author:Dykes, David
 
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When he became Lowe's Cos. CEO in mid-2018, Marvin Ellison concluded the company had its priorities messed up. He's wasted no time making dramatic changes.

Lowe's Cos. CEO Marvin Ellison is banging out a major improvement plan at the Mooresville-based home' improvement retailer. Since arriving in July 2018, the Tennessee native has overhauled the executive team, instituted big changes in how Lowe's operates its stores and initiated a technology push highlighted by plans for a 2,000-employee office in Charlotte's South End neighborhood.

The Memphis University graduate knew Lowe's intimately long before he showed up, having served as executive vice president of rival Home Depot Inc.'s U.S. stores from 2008'14. When the Atlanta-based industry leader picked Craig Menear over Ellison as its CEO in 2014, Ellison took the top post at J.C. Penney Co., the struggling Piano, Texas-based department store chain. He had limited success turning around that company, but lie says he learned key lessons that are paying off at Lowe's.

Ellison, 54, discussed his first year with the company in an interview with Business North Carolina's David Dykes and David Mildenberg that is edited for clarity.

WHAT'S BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE IN THE FIRST YEAR? WHAT'S BEEN MOST SATISFYING?

Retail is notorious for being a very high-turnover environment where people change companies and jobs a lot. But it's not uncommon to be in one of our stores and meet someone who's been with the company for 35 years, 40 years, and they really care a lot about the company. They are committed. That sounds like a cliche, but you just can't take for granted that in 2019, you're going to find people that truly love the company and are committed to it.

Second, Lowe's commitment to the community in every market we serve has just been incredibly impactful. That really shows itself following a natural disaster, whether it's a flood event or hurricane or tornado or fire. We've had a little bit of everything in the year. Our stores just rally. And our associates rally. What's been a surprise--and something that we're working on--is that from a technology standpoint, we're A way behind. I knew we had some catch-up to do, but we're further behind than what I anticipated coming in.

The good news about that is we've hired a fantastic chief information officer [Seemantini Godbole from Target]. We made a large commitment to set up our global [information technology] center in Charlotte. We think that sends a message that we're serious about modernizing Lowe's as a company that really understands the importance and power of IT. It also sends a message that we're committed to North Carolina--and to the city of Charlotte--to make it a beacon of IT growth and to be one of the companies that's B going to be committed to trying to continue to help Charlotte evolve into a major market for talent.

WILKESBORO IS LOSING JOBS TO THE MOORESVILLE HEADQUARTERS. WHAT HAVE YOU TOLD THE STAFF THERE?

I think we tell them a couple of things. No. 1, we will always have a presence there, whether it's...

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