Winter fails to freeze earnings at Lowe's in first quarter

Bad weather for retail dampened sales at Lowe's, but earnings surged well into the double digits for the first quarter, the company announced Wednesday morning.

Lowe's sales increased 2.4% in the first quarter, rising to $13.4 billion. Comparable-store sales increased 0.9%.

The Mooresville, North Carolina-based retail giant reported a net earnings surge of 15.6% to $624 million for the quarter ended May 2.

Lowe's quarterly earnings report followed by one day the report from Home Depot, which outperformed Lowe's in terms of sales. Lowe's showed the higher percentage gain in net earnings -- 15.6%, compared with Depot's 12.5%. 

Both retail giants pointed to the challenges of operating through a season hampered by a late start to spring.

"We executed well during the quarter, despite an unexpectedly prolonged winter in many areas of the country," commented Robert A. Niblock, Lowe's chairman, president and CEO. "While poor weather dampened traffic and negatively impacted performance of exterior categories, results for indoor categories were solid. We effectively aligned inventory, staffing and marketing resources by climatic zone to best serve customers' needs." 

As of May 2, 2014, Lowe's operated 1,836 home improvement and hardware stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico, representing 200.7 million sq. ft. of retail selling space.

For the full fiscal year, Lowe's said total sales are expected to increase approximately 5%, while comp-store sales are expected to increase about 4%.

Early second-quarter performance suggests Lowe's is on the right path, Niblock said.

"Performance has improved in May, which -- together with our strengthening execution -- gives us the confidence to reaffirm our sales and operating profit outlook for the year," he said.

In other news, Lowe's has a new SVP in Michael Tummillo, who is taking over the Building and Maintenance division as SVP and general merchandising manager. He replaces Michael McDermott, who will now serve as CMO and direct supervisor to Tummillo.

"Mike has a deep understanding of the business and the challenges our professional and DIY customers face every day," said McDermott. "During his time at Lowe's, Mike has demonstrated the kind of strategic thinking and leadership across functions which will position him for success as he takes on responsibility for the broader building and maintenance merchandising team. I have great confidence that Mike will deliver our strategic goals in this important segment of the business."

Tummillo was most recently serving as merchandising VP, rough plumbing and electrical. He joined Lowe's in 2004 as VP credit services, soon-after acquiring additional responsibilities in credit, project and event sales. His resume also includes stints at GE card services and GE financial assurance.