STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 37
ask Lowe's professionals about additional
home repairs," Crowley says.
The Harvey portion of the program
was rolled out to eight Lowe's locations
in the greater Houston area beginning
last December. The company set a goal of
training 1,600 local residents - attendance
exceeded that benchmark, drawing between
125 to 250 at each workshop for a total
of 2,000 participants ready to help fill the
acute labor gap.
According to company statistics, nine
out of 10 attendees expressed satisfaction
with the classes and would recommend it
to family or friends. "The more we see this
DIY movement expand through UpSkill
participants tackling new projects or passing
the skills learned from our associates on to
their community, the more successful we've
been at empowering a new generation of
home improvers," Crowley says.
Although the classes are offered free
of charge, Lowe's makes one request of
participants at each session's conclusion:
Lowe's gathers participant feedback
from each session and analyzes the data
to see how the program can be improved.
The company plans to expand the total
program from the 18 cities covered in
2017 to 36 for 2018. Many of these new
markets will offer classes aimed at multiple
aspects of DIY home improvement beyond
In addition to UpSkill, Lowe's is involved
with several other community service and
charitable initiatives. The Lowe's Toolbox for
Education program provides monetary grants
to schools nationwide that are faced with severe
financial hardships. Since its beginning in
2006, a total of $25 million has been donated.
Through the Lowe's Foundation, the
company also contributes $1.5 million annually
to the SkillsUSA campaign, which supports
education in the building trades throughout the
U.S. and Canada. The Lowe's Charitable and
Education Foundation contributes to a variety
of causes, including Rebuilding Together, Boys
and Girls Clubs of America and The Nature
Detroit-based Paul Vachon writes for various trade
publications, in addition to feature stories for consumer
magazines and books on Michigan history and travel.
continued from page 33
loads the cart and you have pre-registered
with facial technology. The cost of that is a
fraction of Amazon Go.
Why has retail lagged in robotics?
If you look at manufacturing, you have
a controlled environment with simple,
repetitive tasks. But in retail, it's much
more complex. You have people, products,
shelves and lighting.
If I'm a retailer, how do I know if
robotics could help me?
McKinsey advanced a five-point evaluation
for considering robotic applications: Is it
technically feasible? What is the cost? Is
there a human labor cost offset? Do its
benefits increase productivity? And is there
regulatory and social acceptance?
Will retail customers accept robots in
It's like other new things. When they
started introducing ATMs, nobody liked
them. But once you get used to it and
realize all the benefits, you feel differently.
People will come to accept them.
Pay it forward. Participants are asked
to share their skills at least once with a
neighbor or friend, with the knowledge that
their community will be further enriched
and additional projects will be initiated.
Crowley says that some 75 percent of
participants have done precisely this to date.
On a more official level, the company
runs a "pay it forward" contest. To
enter, program graduates make a video
explaining their project and the specific
skills required to accomplish it. Winners
are selected on various criteria, including
"passion and excitement for learning
home improvement skills." Prizes include
a $2,000 Lowe's gift card and design
How are robots getting better?
Will Millennials be the first generation
to fully embrace robots?
The biggest developments are about their
ability to manipulate functions in complex
environments - like shelf audits. The next
iteration will be RFID. After that, you'll have
robots capable of stocking store shelves. That
requires tremendous manual dexterity. Each
shelf is different and each item is different.
My nephew, who is 15, is in a robot club
at school that competes with others. He
lives, breaths and eats robots. These clubs
travel all over the country and even go to
global competitions. This generation is
more accepting of robots than any other.
Which retailers are advanced in their
use of robotics?
What does the future of robotics and
retailing look like?
Target has tested robots in San Francisco
to track store inventory. Ahold USA is testing
them at a Giant store in Pennsylvania to
look for out-of-stock items and floor hazards
that might cause someone to slip. Best Buy
has Chloe, a one-armed robot that retrieves
merchandise, and Walmart is testing them
at 50 stores in shelf audit. It may not be
robotics, but Kroger is really advanced and
sophisticated in its use of digital technology.
For one, robots will become intelligent
shopping agents. They will greet you,
walk you to the shelf and help you find the
product you want once you get there.
What retail sector stands to benefit
most from robots?
Mass and grocery. Big stores with lots
of labor and things that need to be placed
How will robots change retailing?
Robots will lead to new types of
retailers that don't even exist today. It's
not about how the robot will adapt to
the retail environment, but how the retail
store will change to accommodate the
Bruce Horovitz, a freelance writer, is a former
USA Today marketing reporter and Los Angeles
Times marketing columnist. He can be reached at
STORES April 2018 37