Lowe's on Friday announced that Joseph McFarland III has been named executive vice president of stores, effective Aug. 15. He will oversee Lowe's north, south and west divisions, Orchard Supply Hardware, pro and services businesses, operations engineering and asset protection for the organization.
McFarland will report to CEO Marvin Ellison, with whom he worked at J.C. Penney and The Home Depot. Most recently he was executive vice president and chief customer officer at J.C. Penney, and before that spent 22 years at The Home Depot, where he served as president of the northern and western divisions from 2007 to 2015, according to a company press release.
Ellison himself left the top spot at J.C. Penney in May to head up Lowe's, and before his arrival at Penney in 2015 had served in various executive roles at Home Depot.
Ellison continues to shake up Lowe's leadership team as he tries to position the company to better defend against Home Depot. Lowe's is under pressure as its main rival casts an ever-wider shadow, even as the economy continues to favor home improvement sales.
The home improvement sector is among the healthiest in retail, and Moody's Investors Service analysts at year's end said they expect that to continue. Both players have benefited from a robust housing market and remain relatively insulated from the ongoing encroachment of e-commerce on their market share.
Organizational changes began well before those announced this month or even the arrival of Ellison last month. The company announced in January it would cut 2,400 jobs across its 285,000-employee U.S. workforce, and early this year shook up its board in the face of activist investor pressure. Earlier this month the company announced a slate of departures and said that Chervon North America President and CEO William Boltz (who also previously held leadership roles at The Home Depot and Sears) would soon arrive as executive vice president of merchandising.
In announcing this latest appointment, Ellison said that McFarland "excels at achieving operational excellence, financial management and brand positioning to deliver top and bottom line results," something the retailer needs. Lowe's has been serving up decent sales but remains relatively weak compared to the competition. First quarter net sales rose 10.7% to $16.9 billion and comparable sales rose 1.9% company wide and 2% in the U.S.
The company has also lately pushed hard into new technologies to enhance the consumer experience, including robots, virtual and augmented reality, and a partnership announced in November with customer engagement startup b8ta to feature smart home and other devices in a store-within-a-store model.