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Home Depot plans cuts to store-level HR staff

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot unveiled plans on April 4 to cut approximately 970 human resources positions in an effort to reorganize store-level staffing.

The company said it plans to use cost-savings from the move to put more staff members on store floors.

In January, Home Depot announced layoffs of about 10 percent of the company’s employee base at its Atlanta headquarters, around 500 employees in all. Those reductions came from all sides of the company and also were intended to add funds for more employees on the floor at individual stores.

The cuts to HR staff are expected to be implemented effective May 1.

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HIRI conference speakers say housing recovery will have to wait

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Washington, D.C. The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) held its spring conference in Washington, D.C., April 3, and most panel experts agreed that the housing market will continue its decline through the rest of the year before showing some modest signs of recovery in 2009.

“The housing market has not hit bottom yet,” said James Gillula, managing director of U.S. Government Consulting, Global Insight, whose presentation examined the state of the housing market and its implications for home improvement sales. “Clearly we’re looking at historic lows in total housing starts. The housing decline will be an even larger drag on the economy in 2008 than in 2007.”

Deborah Weinswig, managing director of retailing/broadlines for Citi Investment Research, said 2008 will remain challenging, as home inventory remains high, housing prices continue to be pressured, credit availability remains uncertain and overall concerns about the economy continue to inhibit spending in the home improvement sector.

“I don’t know if we will ever get back to the kind of spending we saw in home improvement products during the housing bubble,” said Weinswig, who follows Home Depot, Lowe’s and other home improvement retailers. “Instead of a consumer going out and buying a new washer or dryer, they’re going to try to fix the one they have. Instead of buying a whole new kitchen, they’ll resurface the cabinets.”

Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling futures program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, spoke about the fragmentation of the remodeling industry — with the top 50 players representing just 5.2 percent of the total market. He said remodelers can do better in these difficult economic times by becoming specialized in a certain area of home improvement. “It’s very difficult for remodeling contractors to go toe-to-toe with suppliers,” he said. “You look like a bigger player if you’re servicing a niche.”

Attendee Karen Wilson, corporate marketing officer for Hyde Tools, said over the next several months she will take the information from the conference and apply it to product development, marketing, strategic planning and in sales presentations to buyers. “HIRI has a lot of aggregated and useful data for anyone in the home improvement industry,” she said. “You never know when a driving trend will become important in your segment.”

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Two more Lowe’s stores announced in Toronto area

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Lowe’s will further expand its presence in Canada, according to an announcement from a real estate investment firm that has entered into an agreement with the retailer.

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust has announced two agreements to lease store sites to Lowe’s for two new stores in Whitby, Ontario, and Toronto.

Regarding the Whitby store, “Site work has already commenced, with an anticipated opening date of the Lowe’s store in early 2009,” the announcement states.

At the Toronto site, a former Wal-Mart store will be demolished to accommodate the new Lowe’s store. That store also has a planned opening date in 2009.

Lowe’s most recently opened its doors in Maple, Ontario. The retailer entered the Canadian market last year with locations in Hamilton, Ontario; Brantford, Ontario; Newmarket, Ontario; Brampton, Ontario; and Toronto.

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