Monday, August 23, 2010

Home Depot targets pro customers

Building materials supplier sees weakness in pro segment, however

Home Depot says it plans to be “aggressive and opportunistic” in reaching pro customers despite what it sees as weakness in that segment in the second half of 2010

In an earnings call report with financial analysts last week, Home Depot chairman and CEO Frank Blake said there are reasons for the company to be “cautious” across its business.

“We still see still see weakness in our pro segment. We had anticipated that we would start to see growth in our pro customers as we moved into the second quarter, and based on that we thought we’d see gradual improvement in our average ticket. We’re now forecasting modest to flat improvement on the pro side, which puts pressure on average ticket,” he said.

“We also are anticipating softer housing related activity than we originally thought. Clearly, there was some pull-forward of activity from the home buyer tax credits and foreclosures remain high.”

During the question and answer session, Marvin Ellison, executive vice president for U.S. stores, said the company will be targeting the pro market for growth. These pro customers are remodelers, contractors and those serving the maintenance market.

“We’re going to be aggressive and opportunistic with the pro customers,” he said. “We’re going to focus on staffing and service levels and getting them in and out really quick, which is a mandate that they’ve given us. We have a field team that is out there building relationships, understanding the needs of the pro. We’re working with Craig (Craig Menear, executive vice president merchandising) and his team to make sure we’re merchandised the right way, we’re priced the right way. So we’re going to fight as hard as we can to take care of the customers. But again, as Frank said, we just don’t anticipate robust growth in the second half, ”Ellison said.

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