Retail Make-Over

17 Sep 2004|Darrel Rhea

Home Depot has recently opened a very nice store next door to Cheskin’s NY office. This $20 million project is “Home Depot for the urban city dweller.” It has very clean contemporary retail design, with a selection of merchandise focused home décor. No tall racks, no raw building materials — think carpets, window coverings, hardware, plants, furniture, etc. It is very similar to the feel of their Expo franchise that they seem to be fazing out. Very nice signage, nice fixtures, atrium, escalators. What is this supposed to signal for the Home Depot brand experience? A kinder, gentler and more female friendly space?

It doesn’t have the style of a Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, or Restoration Hardware. It is a strange positioning — more functional than style or lifestyle oriented. But it doesn’t seem to have the utility of a real hardware store. It will be interesting to see if consumers spark to this middle ground. Personally, I’m one of those man-guys who loves to wander around and check out the tools and strange supplies of a traditional hardware store – I find it entertaining. But the women I know don’t share that attraction, and hate (hate!) the regular Home Depot experience. I can’t figure out why I would go to this new version except for price. I left feeling that if I had a project, I would need to go this store and another hardware store too.)

The store is filled with point of sale technology. When will retailers learn that they need to make a serious investment in the design of these systems to assure they work? When these interactive kiosks don’t work, it equates to poor service. At least a salesperson can apologize and not waste your time. The system I used seemed like a repurposed online website, with dead ends that even the service people on the floor couldn’t make work. My rule of thumb, if the technology doesn’t work as reliably as a human service person — keep designing.

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