Home Depot's newest retail laboratory has opened in Charlotte, SC. Dubbed Home Depot Design Center, it is a female friendly store. It represents a hybrid of many things the home improvement chain has tried, minus the forklifts and two by fours.
Shoppers are greeted with a showroom area that features kitchen and bathroom vignettes and bears some resemblance to the company's high end Expo Design Center concept, which has been scaled back in recent years. It seems like a merger of Home Depot, Pottery Barn, the Container Store and Smith & Hawken. A sign says: "Indulge yourself in style."
There is an 11,000 square foot showroom featuring furniture and accessories from Home Decorators Collection, a catalog business Home Depot acquired a year ago. There is a large home organization department featuring upscale closet systems, rattan baskets, funky storage boxes and children's storage items. In another corner, a garden shop is stocked with orchids, cut flowers, silk plants and decorative containers.
"We really tried to create a format that lives up to the needs of the home decor customers," said Jason Feldman, the company's senior director of merchandising. Feldman insists it's not a modernized Expo. Instead, he said, it's a test of what happens when the retailer takes the most appealing pieces of the regular warehouse store and Expo and puts them under one "female friendly" roof.
"This is really an extension of the learnings from the orange box and Expo and picks up where they left off," Feldman said. The "orange" of the familiar orange box, has taken on a burnt orange cast to coordinate with the Design Center's color palette.
Although the 100,000 square foot store is roughly the same size as a regular Home Depot, the merchandise displays are entirely different. Shelving tops out at 10 feet high, versus the warehouse setting. Instead of millwork, there are dozens of doors and windows in realistic exterior facades of stucco and siding.
Shoppers can try out ovens and other appliances in the kitchen showroom. The retailer will host cooking demonstrations.
The Design Center format was built to be an antidote, Feldman said. Store designers ditched the lumber and building materials area and used the space instead to carry a wider selection of décor oriented products.
A second test Design Center is scheduled to open in Concord, CA, and that is all plans call for now. "We're not trying to roll out a new chain of stores," Feldman said. "The goal is to see how many of the elements work and whether we can take those back to the orange box."
The Design Center is the company's second test of a new store format this year. In spring it rolled out small stores in the San Francisco area. At roughly half the size of regular Home Depots, the five California stores put a heavy emphasis on appliances, flooring, and kitchen and bath products.
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