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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lowe's coming to town

StoryChat: Comment on this story

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Lowe's Companies Inc. expects to begin construction later this year on a long-planned Iwilei store slated to open next year sandwiched between Home Depot and City Mill.

The world's second-largest home-improvement retailer plans to build a 117,000-square-foot store and 31,500-square-foot garden center between Pacific Street and Nimitz Highway.

The store would be the fourth in Hawai'i and second on O'ahu for Lowe's, and positioned for extremely close competition with the two more established rival home-improvement chains in the state.

The location of the planned Lowe's store, first reported by The Advertiser in 2004, has generated much talk among consumers who welcome more choices but are also a little incredulous over having three home-improvement stores so close together.

"I think it's a little outrageous to have all three of them right next to each other," said Sheila Robertson, a school bus driver from Kane'ohe. "I guess it's convenient if you like to price around. It might drive prices down."

Errol Nishimura, a locksmith from Makiki, also wonders if close-quarter competition will result in a price battle that benefits consumers, but is concerned about possibly losing another kama'aina family-owned business.

"It's dog eat dog," he said. "Somebody's going to be losing out."

Industry analysts have said it's not unusual for Lowe's and the world's largest home-improvement retailer, Home Depot, to develop stores adjacent to each other or smaller competitors on the Mainland.

Local chain City Mill, likewise, has years of experience competing with its larger rivals near and far, and it successfully has been able to focus on a service and merchandising mix at eight O'ahu locations to set it apart.

Lowe's bought the roughly 14-acre property in March 2005 for $35 million, according to property records, and later that year announced that the store, employing as many as 175 people, would likely open in the second quarter of 2008.

Recently, site demolition and cleanup work was begun by ConocoPhillips, the site's former owner that used the property primarily for fuel storage tanks, a petroleum truck filling station and warehouse operations.

Store construction should commence in the fourth quarter, after ConocoPhillips completes its clean-up, said Lowe's spokeswoman Maureen Rich, who added that the store's opening is expected toward the end of the 2008 second quarter.

About five acres on the corner of the site are leased to environmental services firm BEI Hawaii and affiliate HT&T Truck Center, which will remain as tenants.

The Iwilei area, just 'ewa of Downtown Honolulu, has evolved over the decades into a nexus of big-box retailers that include Kmart, Costco and Best Buy. City Mill opened its now roughly 60,000-square-foot Iwilei store in 1950. Home Depot opened a 135,000-square-foot store and 15,000-square-foot garden center in 1999.

Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's, which operates about 1,400 stores in 49 states, entered Hawai'i in 1999 with its purchase of Eagle Hardware & Garden, which operated stores in Waikele on O'ahu and Kahului, Maui.

A third Lowe's opened in Kailua, Kona, on the Big Island in 2003, but the single O'ahu location remained farther from the island's population center than Home Depot stores in Iwilei and Pearl City.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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