Where Is The Closest Lowe's Home Improvement Center – CHICAGO, IL – JANUARY 24: Wes Bielinski (L) helps a customer purchase a sander at a Lowe’s home improvement store on January 24, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Lowe’s said it plans to hire 45,000 part-time workers this spring, the home improvement retailer’s busiest time of year. The company also plans to hire 9,000 permanent part-time workers. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Lowe’s Home Improvement is entering Manhattan’s competitive retail market for the first time this summer with the opening of two new stores, a move that signals how the chain is reshaping its broader retail strategy to capture growing U.S. urban markets.

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The company is finishing construction on two new stores in New York City’s Upper West Side and Chelsea neighborhoods, with both locations expected to open later this summer. The stores represent a more urban approach to big-box retailing on several fronts. The stores will be smaller and stock merchandise from new retailers that Lowe’s ( LOW ) has not worked with before. The Lowe’s team says they’re thinking about retail differently in order to tackle the Manhattan market.

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“We’ve been looking at becoming more civic minded for a decade,” said Richard Maltsbarger, Lowe’s Director of Development.

. About two years ago, Lowe’s finally moved forward with plans to create a retail strategy for the New York market.

For starters, Manhattan stores are smaller than traditional Lowe’s. The new Island locations are three times smaller at around 30,000 square feet, compared to existing stores, which average around 112,000 square feet and are concentrated in the U.S. suburbs. The Manhattan store also has storefronts to attract street traffic. It’s a feature you wouldn’t find in a typical Lowe’s store.

Major U.S. cities experienced population gains in the post-recession years, and there has been much talk about the tendency of millennials to move to cities in search of job opportunities and linger in urban markets before buying a home in the suburbs. Although there are some signs of slowing growth in US cities, their populations continue to grow.

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Lowe’s believes it can take this smaller retail space strategy to other urban markets, hoping to tap into those retail markets where Lowe’s doesn’t currently have a strong presence.

“This format allows us to reach additional customers in areas where we think we can help them love where they live,” says Maltsbarger.

The smaller store format strategy differs from that of archrival Home Depot ( HD ), which has two stores in Manhattan that are roughly the same size as that retailer’s average store. Home Depot has also operated two locations on the island since 2004, so Lowe’s will hit the market for the first time in a decade.

The decision to open smaller stores also undercuts Lowe’s investment in entering Manhattan’s expensive retail market.

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“New York is the most expensive place to open a store,” says Ron Friedman, a retail consultant at accounting and consulting firm Marcum LLP. “The cost per square meter to open a store is very expensive.” For starters, he advises retailers to rent less space.

Smaller locations will be limited to items less popular for small homes, often with little outdoor space. For example, Lowe’s Manhattan stores will have fewer shovels and fewer carpets, as those items are less popular for urban needs.

Shovels can of course be ordered online, and Lowe’s spent a lot of time on a walking tour of the company’s Upper West Side location talking about its omnichannel capabilities to ensure that any item it carries can be quickly shipped to inner-city homes and apartments. . Omnichannel is how companies like Lowe’s connect brick-and-mortar retail with their online businesses to make order fulfillment as easy as possible.

“We’ve been able to build something that has the right size and feel for the Manhattan buyer, but supported by the million-square-foot Lowe’s that surrounds the island,” says Maltsbarger.

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Lowe’s is focusing on eight “periods” of home improvement, including storage and organization, remodeling, paint and appliances. Within those areas of the store, the retailer’s team has announced several new partners that Lowe’s will work with for the first time in New York City, including closet organizer Space Pro, Smeg and Liebherr appliances, and Jessica Alba’s creation. The Honest Company Some are trendy plays, others focus on making small apartments more livable.

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