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Home Depot offers Expo alternative


CHARLOTTE, N.C. —In an effort to appeal to more female shoppers, Home Depot debuted its new Design Center in Charlotte, N.C., last month, a format that carries a larger supply of home decor and appliances and features a more upscale look and upscale merchandise.

While the store bears some resemblance to its Expo Design Centers, Home Depot executives say it’s something different. Senior director of merchandising Jason Feldman said the store is designed to “live up to the needs of the home decor customer,” and described it as an extension of its standard stores and Expo Centers that “picks up where they [leave] off.”

The centerpiece of the store is an 11,000-square-foot showroom that features furniture and home decor from its Home Decorators Collection, a catalog business Home Depot acquired last year. There’s also a storage area with closets and upscale storage units and a garden section with flowers and decorative containers.

The 100,000-square-foot store also has a different look than a typical Home Depot with shelves that top off at 10 feet, wider aisles and showrooms where customers can test appliances and watch cooking demonstrations. And it carries more high-ticket items than a typical Home Depot with brands like Viking, Aga and Dacor.

The Design Center is similar to one Home Depot opened in Concord, Calif., earlier this year and contains some of thesome of the same elements as its Yardbirds stores that debuted in the Bay Area this April. The five Yardbird stores, which Feldman described as a “hybrid between a Home Depot and an Expo Design Center in terms of assortment,” carry about 20,000 products and cater to home repair amateurs.

The opening of the Design Center shows Home Depot is still intent on testing new strategies after closing most of its experimental formats. It shuttered its seven-store Floor Center chain, its 11-store Landscape Supply chain and sold its HD Supply division this summer. The one piece it did hold on to is its 34 Expo Design Centers.

Other DIY retailers are trying to attract more female shoppers with new formats, as well. True Value unveiled a female friendly prototype last month at its fall trade show in Atlanta. The store features brighter lighting, wider aisles and a mix of merchandise with more home decor itmes. In describing the rationale for the new model, a True Value spokesman said that hardware stores “have always been a male bastion kind of place, but they don’t need to be.”

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