Big Box Thinks Small

A continuing frustration for The Home Depot has been its lack of success in attracting professional contractors.

April 30, 2002


A continuing frustration for The Home Depot has been its lack of success in attracting professional contractors. Setting up will-call and contractor counters hasn’t done much to increase the retail giant’s share of that market, which it claims to be 30%. Within the past few years, though, The Home Depot has accelerated its campaign with what it called the Pro Initiative: opening Home Depot Pro stores in Colma, Calif., (near San Francisco) and Phoenix; acquiring several wholesale distributors of maintenance, plumbing, HVAC and electrical materials; and just this year in Mesquite, Texas, opening a Home Depot Supply store aimed exclusively at professional contractors in the Dallas area. (The Phoenix and Colma stores will be renamed Home Depot Supply soon.)

What makes these newest stores different from the big DIY centers, says Dave Krumbholz, vice president for Home Depot Supply, is that they are designed specifically to save contractors time. The stores are staffed by former trade contractors with an average of 10 years of field experience. Even the phone system is set up differently: Instead of a central number through which all calls must be funneled, each department has a direct line, allowing plumbers to reach the plumbing department right away.

“For the most part, the do-it-yourself business and the home builder are very well-served [by existing dealers],” Krumbholz says. “When remodelers go to shop at home builder yards, I think they get treated as second-class citizens. If they go to Home Depot, they have to stand in line, and time is money. What we want to do is serve the contractors and remodelers first. We want to hold them up on a pedestal with our format.”

Home Depot Supply also offers delivery to the job site — a departure from the company’s usual pickup-only policy. Other features include tool rental; a blueprint area where builders and contractors can review plans or bids with clients; a builder showroom complete with kitchen, lighting and flooring design services; and delivery of concrete by the yard.

Two more HD Supply stores will be opened in Milpitas, Calif., (near San Jose) and Denver by the end of the year, Krumbholz says.

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