Rebuilding The Home Depot, brick by brick

I went into my local Home Depot last weekend to buy two bricks. I was making chicken under a brick, and I was fresh...

I went into my local Home Depot last weekend to buy two bricks. I was making chicken under a brick, and I was fresh out of bricks. The group of five staffers I asked just kind of gawped at me when I asked them to get them for me, and although I felt a bit foolish for asking for just two (“I’m building a very tiny house,” I flushed), I thought, hey, my money's just as good as the dusty guy behind me toting 25 sheets of plasterboard.

Until TLC airs a show entitled Pimp My 250-Year-Old Heap of a Rented Farmhouse With Chipmunks in the Closet and Bats in the Sitting Room, I’m not much of a DIY viewer. But I might tune in to see how The Home Depot fares in the new show, Take Home Handyman. In this show, handyman Andy Dan-Jumbo will scour Home Depot stores looking for hapless, would-be DIYers who frankly would be better off with someone else to wield the power tools, and help them bring their DIY dreams to reality (TV).

This is a smart move for The Home Depot on many levels. A chief criticism of ousted CEO Bob Nardelli is that he abandoned DIYers in a bid to woo big business from contractors. Home enthusiasts flocked to Lowes, which welcomed them with open arms. Reading blogs like Consumerist, it’s clear that many people think The Home Depot’s customer service for “regular” people has declined, while Lowes’ is now the gold standard. I’ve seen it first hand: when a Lowes finally opened in a nearby town, I saw many customers thanking the staff for relieving them of The Home Depot. This effort should, if the show’s good and is supported well by communications, begin to reposition The Home Depot as a place that actively welcomes DIYers.

Second, of course, is that The Home Depot is engaging in a creative marketing method in the shape of branded entertainment. It’s not the first retailer to be involved in this kind of relationship – witness Sears and the like on TLC’s Trading Spaces. But this appears to present The Home Depot not so much in a magnanimous sponsorship role, more as a kind of natural habitat for home enthusiasts. Which is exactly where it wants – and needs – to be, every bit as much as a home for the high-end contractors.

For this to work properly, of course, there needs to be a raft of other communications going on meanwhile – I’d be interested to see what’s in the works. And of course, the improvements need to be made in-store, and in my recent experience, I can’t honestly say it’s the friendliest of places for an amateur – plumber or gourmet. Does anyone else have any experiences to share at either store?

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