At Home Depot meeting, a variety of voices

Customer service, glue traps and corporate democracy were among the issues on the table at a wide-ranging Home Depot annual shareholders meeting in Atlanta Thursday.

Home Depot’s shareholders approved the company's recommendations for its board of directors and executive pay structure. And it defeated a shareholder proposal regarding shareholder control of corporate political gifts.

Julie Goodridge, CEO of Northstar Asset Management, called the proposal a step toward corporate democracy and a way to make the corporation’s political donations in line with the shareholders, instead of the executives. 

Home Depot recommended against the measure regarding electioneering policies and contributions. "We believe that participating in the political process in a transparent manner is an important way to enhance shareholder value and promote good corporate citizenship," according to the company's proxy statement. "We do not believe, however, that implementing an annual shareholder advisory vote on our political activity policy and plans would provide shareholders with any more meaningful information than is already available."

During the question and answer session, the first question was actually a criticism of Home Depot's policy of carrying glue traps, described by Lindsay Wright as a cruel form of rodent control. An employee later in the proceedings applauded the company for carrying the same traps, which he described as effective.

Shareholders who praised the level of customer service were applauded roundly. But the biggest applause came when Frank Blake introduced four associates of the Joplin, Mo., store that was destroyed by a tornado May 22.

Speaking on the business of home improvement retailing, Blake showed a slide that added "interconnected retail" to the company's traditional three-legged stool of retail success keys -- passionate customer service, product authority and disciplined capital allocation.

"We believe over the next decade the winners in retail will be those that deliver a best in class multichannel experience that allows customers to buy how, when and where they want," he told shareholders.

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