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MOORESVILLE, NC-Lowe’s Cos. Inc. plans to open six to 10 stores in Toronto in 2007, marking the home improvement retailer’s first expansion outside of the US. The company will invest $120 million to $200 million Canadian as part of the expansion strategy and will create 1,700 jobs for the Canadian economy.

“We’re very excited about our expansion into Canada,” says Doug Robinson, who was named president of the Canada operation. “We think [our stores] will be very well received.” In fact, Lowe’s says that it could open as many as 100 stores in Canada.

Robinson’s first objective is to establish an office in the Toronto area later this year and build the Canadian management team. As a 20-year home improvement industry veteran, Robinson has specific experience in the Canadian market. He worked at ARXX Building Products in Ontario and served as president and CEO of Beaver Lumber Co. in Toronto.

According to Robinson, Lowe’s is not ready to disclose specific locations for its Canadian stores, which will be similar in size to the big box stores in the US. “We’ve just started evaluating the real estate market in Toronto,” he explains.

However, the retailer has been studying the Canadian home improvement market for nearly two years. “It’s a $26-billion market, and in our view it’s a large market opportunity,” Robinson says, adding that Lowe’s rang up 400,000 transactions with Canadian customers last year in US stores.

Lowe’s most formidable competitors in Canada will be Atlanta-based Home Depot, which expects to operate 136 stores in Canada by the end of the year, and Boucherville, Quebec-based RONA, which operates a network of 550 franchise, affiliate and corporate stores totaling more than 12.5 million sf.

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