Home Depot Ups Contractor Efforts, Names New CEO

Jan. 1, 2001
ATLANTA - Home Depot unveiled at a 1 1/2-day conference for stock analysts plans to attract more professional contractors. The home-improvement chain

ATLANTA - Home Depot unveiled at a 1 1/2-day conference for stock analysts plans to attract more professional contractors. The home-improvement chain held the recent conference amid concerns over a disappointing third-quarter performance.

The efforts to woo a more professional customer base include the firm's tool rental departments, currently operating in 289 stores. Company officials say the tool rental program attracts professional customers and generates new efficiencies from Home Depot's core warehouse stores. Home Depot Rentals is No. 26 on the RER 100, based on an estimated $38 million in 1999 rental revenue, a figure that should increase considerably in 2000.

HD plans to enhance value for the company's professional customer base by offering delivery services and more dedicated customer service associates. Its new "Pro Initiative," aimed at increasing professional contractor business, has been launched in 160 stores, with plans to add 40 more by early this year. HD executives also promised to reduce stocking tasks during key business hours, allowing employees to devote more attention to customers.

Analysts are concerned by the home-improvement chain's fiscal third-quarter performance. HD reported same-store growth of 13 percent, considerably below the 25 percent they had expected, and the company has predicted that same-store growth will drop to 4 percent this year, down from 10 percent last year. According to a report in Business Week magazine, the slowdown is caused by an industrywide slump in the prices of lumber and other building materials, as well as tough comparisons with 1999, when sales were boosted by Y2K-related concerns.

In management news, Home Depot named Robert Nardelli as its new president and chief executive.

As the of GE Power Systems, Nardelli oversaw one of GE's most profitable divisions with $15 billion in sales. He approved the launch of GE Energy Rentals in 1999 to target the short-term power rental market, competing with Aggreko and Caterpillar. Marty Moore heads GE Energy Rentals, Schenectady, N.Y.

To replace Nardelli, GE Power Systems has named John Rice as president and chief executive. Rice joined the division last June as chief operating officer.

Nardelli was one of three top GE executives in the running to replace chairman and CEO Jack Welch when he retires at the end of the year. Jeffrey Immelt, head of GE's medical systems division, will succeed Welch.

Nardelli succeeds Arthur Blank, who joins Bernard Marcus, with whom he founded Home Depot in 1979, as co-chairman.

Home Depot now operates 1,081 stores in 46 states, seven Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, Chile and Argentina. Home Depot executives projected significant growth, expecting to reach 2,300 stores by 2004, with 23 percent to 25 percent growth in earnings per share in fiscal 2001.