What Retail Experts Think About Lowe’s Marketing Reorg

Marisa Thalberg, Lowe’s brand and marketing director, left the home improvement retailer as part of a corporate reorganization.

Lowe’s said last week that it would eliminate the CMO role and that its marketing team would now report to Bill Boltz, executive vice president of merchandising. The retailer said Jen Wilson, senior vice president of brand and customer marketing, has been promoted to senior vice president of enterprise brand and marketing and will report to Mr. Boltz.

The retailer’s online team and Mike Shady, senior vice president of line, who previously reported to Mr. Boltz, will now report to Seemantini Godbole, Lowe’s chief information and digital officer.

said a company spokesman ad age that the reorganization was necessary “to improve alignment across the business…we need deep integration between marketing, merchandising and stores.”

There was a wide range of responses to the reorganization of the experts in the RetailWire BrainTrust in a online discussion last week, with some who weren’t convinced that stacking marketing below marketing was the right way to line things up.

“This Lowe’s move is a bit puzzling,” he wrote. david lanceSenior Partner, Industry Consulting, Retail, CPG and Hospitality at Teradata
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. “Remember, Lowe’s reported annual revenue of $96 billion in 2022. One could argue that a company this size can’t afford NOT to have a CMO reporting directly to the CEO and secondly move an individual C -1 under merchandise will inherently reduce the impact of marketing initiatives. It’s unfortunate because I thought Lowe’s had a lot of momentum from a marketing standpoint and was solidly executing unique experiential plays.”

“From my experience, that is a mistake,” he wrote. Lee Peterson, executive vice president of thought leadership and marketing at WD Partners. “Merchandising is short-term thinking: what did I sell today? Marketing is long-term thinking: how can we promote the brand? Having merchants, who are driven by sales and profits and not long-term brand goals (other than outside brands) who don’t think in terms of the future. And maybe that’s what Lowe’s needs; sales now, but in the long run this will not go well for them.”

“ME [will refer to] merchandising as promotion,” Professor Gene Detroyer wrote. “I have been marketing manager and promotion manager. Each demands a completely different mindset. Marketing is longer term. The promotion is short term. When marketing is the tail of the promotion dog, the company loses focus on the brand. While promotion is important, branding is what takes a company into the future.”

the ad age The article notes that it is unusual for retailers to put the marketing on the merchandising. Richard Sanderson, a consultant at Spencer Stuart, said the practice was more common in supermarkets more than a decade ago, when “marketing really drove weekly promotions and print circulars.”

some in RetailWire’s BrainTrust, however, was more optimistic about the chances of the new setup.

“I agree with a more product-focused approach, not discount marketing, but it has to start with the right product,” he wrote. brian delpCEO of New Sega Home. “From there, you can clearly define the features and attributes that are marketable. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if others follow suit.”

Others saw more potential with a reorganization of a different order.

“I have long wanted a better alignment between marketing and merchandising, and I admire Lowe’s willingness to take this bold but risky step,” he wrote. David Bruno, director of retail market research for Aptos. “However, I always imagined it in another way: reports from merchandising to marketing.”

“The value of a brand and the ability to deliver on the promise should drive all decisions,” wrote Patricia Vekich Waldron, founder and CEO of Vision First. “I’m all for silo removal, but this move is the other way around: marketing should drive commercialization.”

Although that suggestion also had its opponents.

“The rise of marketing was a 21st century thing, and in my opinion created as many problems as it solved them, including running their own IT departments,” he wrote. paula rosenblum, co-founder of RSR Research. “Let’s put it this way: I’d rather report from marketing to merchandising than the other way around.”

the departure of Mrs. Thalberg, CNBC reports, follows two consecutive quarters during which Lowe’s posted declines in same-store sales against strong year-over-year comparisons. Lowe’s benefited in 2021 as its customers received government stimulus checks and focused more attention on their homes in the face of the pandemic. Consumers in 2022 have focused their spending on necessities and reduced discretionary spending as a result of rising prices and economic uncertainty.

Ms. Thulberg’s departure from Lowe’s is likely to be followed by others in retail, as more companies look for answers to boost sales during a period when customer demand has slowed, inventory has accumulated and companies engage in a constant stream of markdowns to move merchandise as they go. the Christmas season is approaching.

But as other retailers may be looking at ways to reorganize direct reporting and responsibilities, some at BrainTrust say they don’t expect real change from this particular reorganization.

“Marketing is part of marketing anyway,” he wrote. Ananda Chakravarti, vice president of research at IDC. “Merchandising sells products and marketing needs to support it, hence the importance of alignment. However, this move is due to the departure of a leader, but Lowe’s has taken the appropriate steps to fill the void.”

“Honestly, it has always been this way,” Ms. Rosenblum wrote. “Whether it’s under merchandising or a quasi-peer. Retailers do not sell brands. They sell products. Then marketing and merchandising work together to determine what products they can buy specifically for the promotion.”

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