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Home Depot opens 12 stores in China

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot’s long-awaited entry into China became official Aug. 26 with grand opening festivities at rebranded stores in six locations. The former Home Way units, purchased in December 2006, were remodeled and remerchandised, according to the Atlanta-based retailer. Sales associates also received additional training over the past eight months.

Altogether, Home Depot will operate 12 stores in six cities: Tianjin, Beijing, Xi’an, Qingdao, Shenyang and Zhengzhou.

Annette Verschuren, president of Home Depot Asia and Canada, presided over inaugural ceremonies in Beijing. Also on hand was Yves Chen, president of Home Depot China.

“The introduction of Eco Options and premium Kohler products into China are the beginnings of our promise to bring Chinese consumers the best international brands at competitive prices to provide total solutions for their home decoration needs,” said Chen, in a prepared statement.

Home Depot’s Chinese venture has been a long time in the making. Back in 2004, the company officially formed a business development operation based in China. At the time, the company saw a huge potential in the population of 2 billion potential customers, a growing economy and relatively few large-format home improvement players.

Little has changed in the big picture. But the Home Depot stores have seen several changes in recent months, including interior and exterior renovations at all 12 new stores. In May, Home Depot launched the Eco Options program in China—bringing 300 environmentally friendly products to the stores.

Merchandising adjustments include the introduction of a paint Color Center, including a Colour Matching system; and water treatment centers in each store, allowing customers to test water purification systems.

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Lowe’s execs eye lawn care items, eco-friendly products

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs 14th Annual Global Retailing Conference, held today in New York, Patti Price, Lowe’s general merchandise manager for outdoor living, told investors and analysts what she expects will be trends to watch in the coming months.

“Because of drought [in some regions of the country], customers will be renovating their lawns,” Price predicted. Fall cleanup products and lawn care items are being promoted in Lowe’s stores, she said.

“We’ve had some real success in our holiday programs,” Price said. “We brought in John Deere. The merchants are so focused on moving the business ahead … we’re extremely well positioned for the back half of this year.”

Larry Stone, president and COO for Lowe’s, said new products that have been popular in Lowe’s stores include eco-friendly items and composite building materials.

“Something that’s really evolving, in my opinion, is all these composite products,” Stone said. “[There are] a lot of new products that customers want to use because they’re lower priced and lower maintenance.” Those products include composite siding, shutters and solid core composite flooring, he said.

Additionally, Stone said innovations in locksets, including keyless locks, have shown increased popularity in the home improvement market.

Stone spoke further on Lowe’s overall market position in the middle of a housing downturn, saying the company was “not happy with the negative 2.6 (percent) comps that we recorded” in the second quarter. He also said the company has seen weakness in big-ticket items, installed sales and special order sales.

However, Stone was optimistic about the next few years for the nation’s second largest home improvement retailer, adding, “Lowe’s will be well-positioned, once everything turns around, for further growth in the home improvement industry.”

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Dave Heine joins BlueLinx

BY HBSDEALER Staff

BlueLinx, one of the industry’s largest building materials distributors, has hired Dave Heine, the former vp-retail development at Do it Best. BlueLinx confirmed that Heine started this week as a senior national account executive, where he will call on Do it Best accounts and other independent dealers.

“I have worked with [Heine] for over 20 years as a customer and always admired his abilities, leadership style and integrity,” said BlueLinx president and chief operating officer George Judd.

Heine, a 28-year veteran of Do it Best, left in July after serving in a number of positions that included vp-lumber and building materials, vp-building products, vp-purchasing for pro and commercial products and manager of the lumber and commodities division.

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