Saturday, I stopped by my neighborhood Wal-Mart to buy eight compact fluorescent (CFL) vanity globes for a bath room and four CFLs suitable for a ceiling fan. When I arrived at the checkout, the cashier noticed that one of the globes in a three-pack was broken. I decided to pick up a three-pack at my nearby Lowes Home Improvement Store on Sunday. (Kudos to the cashier for noticing the breakage. I thanked her profusely.)
This Wal-Mart is not a super Wal-Mart (although they’re working on it) but I go there because they have a great selection of different types of CFLs. According to Fast Company Magazine, Wal-Mart teamed up with General Electric, which owns 60% of the residential light bulb market, to increase the supply of CFLs for consumers.
Sunday, I went to Lowe’s to pick up the vanity globes. But despite have an entire aisle devoted to light bulbs, only about 30-40% were CFLs. Most of those were spirals, suitable for lamps and other light fixtures. I left disappointed and disgusted because now I was forced to go to my last choice, Home Depot.
Lowes had no vanity globes, nor did they have the CFLs I needed for the ceiling fan. I also wanted an extra flood, but they didn’t have that either. The overall impression I walked away with is that Lowe’s was behind the curve on understanding the appropriate product mix. While they had plenty of bulbs, their selection was poor.
My suggestion to Lowes: Find a super Wal-Mart and check out their CFL inventory. Then copy it.
I left Lowe’s without buying anything. I went to Home Depot where I found everything I needed. I walked out spending $65.00.
Lowe’s should reconfigure its inventory to offer a wider selection of CFLs. Quantity wasn’t the issue. I noticed they had plenty of stock; the problem was their selection was too limited.
I can’t speak for their stores elsewhere. But I can tell you that, in their Austin, TX Brodie Lane store, they’re lagging behind both Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
Don’t take your inventory for granted. Seek feedback from your customers and be sure to shop your competition. Remember, GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) does not measure the amount of sales you lose because you didn’t meet the needs of your customers.