One of the things I’ve learned in this job is that the mere mention of the two biggest big box home improvement stores sets some people off. It happened last week when I reported on Home Depot’s and Lowe’s first quarter earnings statements—and calculated what it would mean to take the projected 2015 revenue of each company and turn it into a stack of $20 bills. As you probably guessed, the stacks would be tall—hundreds of miles tall.

Among the comments we received was this one from “Bubba”:
This is a story a construction mag would waste it's time on? I personally hate them both. Lowes carries cheap junk to compete on price that nobody in their right mind would install. Depot has become the Walmart of the home improvement world. Nobody knows anything, they're usually clustered in the store in the back doing nothing, you have to sort through every bin to weed out the stuff that shouldn't be in there if you need more than one, their prices are astronomical (recently needed a 1" copper tee-$12?, found online for $4), they've gotten rid of many of the contractor related items (but they sure do have a lot of appliances!).

I can’t speak to Bubba’s complaints about the products and employees at the big box stores in his area but I can answer his question: Why would a construction magazine waste time on a story about Home Depot and Lowe’s? That’s easy. Home Depot and Lowe’s are the 800 pound gorillas of the tool and construction world, and the things they do affect everyone who uses tools or works in construction—even people who don’t shop at those stores. You already knew these companies are big. The charts below will show you how big.

Several people besides Bubba commented on the original story and most weren’t as down on box stores. You can see what they said by scrolling to the end of Home Depot v. Lowe’s.

The data used in the chart above came from the 2014 ProSales 100 list, which includes information on the 100 largest Lumber and Building Material dealers. Unlike ProSales' list (sorted by sales to pros) this one is sorted by total sales, so the number 10 company is different.

The sales of the largest pro dealer (ABC Supply) is dwarfed by those of Home Depot, Lowe's, and Menards.The data used in the chart above came from a story in the December 2014 issue of Hardware Retailing, a magazine published by the North American Retail Hardware Association.

The data used in this chart came from a story in the December 2014 issue of Hardware Retailing, a magazine published by the North American Retail Hardware Association.