Lowes set to close 31 Canadian stores, including two in the Sault

Lowe\s set to close 31 Canadian stores, including two in the Sault
Lowes to close dozens of stores
Home improvement retailer Lowe's is closing 31 locations in Canada, including 27 underperforming Lowe's and Rona stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, along with 20 Lowe's locations in the United States

The North Carolina-based chain said Monday morning that the closures are "part of its ongoing strategic reassessment" of its business.

Lowes closing 31 Canadian stores, 20 stores in U.S.

Only two of the closing locations are currently branded as Lowe's, and both are in Ontario. One in Calgary is a Reno-Depot. The rest are Ronas, the Quebec chain that Lowe's bought in 2016.

MAP: These are the Rona and Lowes stores closing by February

Across all of its brands, Lowe's currently has 2,390 stores across North America, including 630 in Canada. Other Lowe's-owned brands include Dick's Lumber, Contractor First and Ace Hardware.

Based in Boucherville, Que., Lowe’s Canadian business has more than 630 corporate and independent affiliate dealer stores.

"The decision to close stores is never one that we make lightly. However, following a detailed business review, we believe that this is the right path for the organization's future," Lowe's Canada's president Sylvain Prud'homme said.

Lowe’s says it expects to close the impacted stores by the end of the company’s 2018 financial year, Feb. 1, 2019.

"Everything will be done to ensure a smooth transition until the stores are closed, and Lowe's Canada will support impacted employees, including by transferring eligible employees to other locations within our network whenever possible."

The chain is also closing 20 Lowe's locations across the U.S. immediately. The Canadian locations will stay open for a bit longer, before being shuttered for good by the end of February 2019.

The company says most employees at U.S. locations being shut down will be offered a job at a nearby store, but the company has made no such guarantee for Canadian workers — who currently number more than 28,000 people across all of Lowe's brands in Canada.

The company named 27 affected stores are from New Westminster, B.C., Calgary, Alta., along with various locations in Ontario and Newfoundland. That amounts toto about three per cent of the companys Canadian footprint.

"Everything will be done to ensure a smooth transition until the stores are closed, and all impacted employees will be supported by our HR team," Lowe's Canada told CBC News in a statement.

The union representing Atlantic Canada workers said in a statement, "We are shocked by this news and we are equally shocked at the insensitive and disrespectful manner in which these employees were told this news. Meetings were called on Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening hundreds of employees were handed severance letters."

The Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers said many of the employees had worked for Rona for decades and "deserved better treatment from this employer."

Lowe's bought rival Quebec chain Rona in 2016 in a $3.2-billion takeover, and soon began consolidating some of those locations into Lowe's stores to streamline operations.

Lowe's has been struggling to find ways to catch up with do-it-yourself giant Home Depot, whose stores on average generate almost twice as much in sales as Lowe's locations do.

Retail analyst Bruce Winder, co-founder of the Retail Advisors Network, said he's surprised it took Lowe's this long to close some of the underperforming stores it acquired in 2016 and consolidate its Canadian presence as much as possible under the Lowe's name.

"If you have too many stores, your sales per store drop to a level where your costs are too high," he says. "It's part of a natural pruning."

Winder says Lowe's is facing a formidable challenger in Home Depot, which expanded to Canada first and as such got a real head start in winning over contractors who remain loyal to it.

Most of the stores Lowe's is closing have other locations nearby, which is no accident, Winder said.

"They're cutting off the bottom rung of stores and hoping that customers in the area just go to a nearby store, and that way they can maintain their revenue," he says.

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Lowe’s Companies Inc. is set to close more than 50 of its stores and locations across North America, including 31 in Canada, as part of a “strategic reassessment.”

The list of stores that will be affected by the move includes nine RONA and Lowe’s locations in Ontario, but so far, none of them are southwest of the Greater Toronto Area.

A statement from Lowe’s, released Monday morning, said the closures will allow officials to focus on the company’s most profitable stores.

“While decisions that impact our associates are never easy, the store closures are a necessary step in our strategic reassessment as we focus on building a stronger business,” said Lowes president and CEO Marvin R. Ellison. “We believe our people are the foundation of our business and essential to our future growth, and we are making every effort to transition impacted associates to nearby Lowes stores.”

The stores that are being affected by the move are expected to close their doors for good by February 1, 2019 at the latest.