Magazine for professional home renovators.

Hate big box stores? Home Depot wants you to feel the love

A couple of weeks ago, Canadian Contractor attended the Hardlines Conference in Toronto, an annual event that brings together home improvement store executives, independent hardware store owners and manufacturers.

It’s a good place to see how lumberyards and building supply stores are constantly trying to find ways to attract more business from contractors.

It’s well known in the industry that a lot of renovation contractors don’t like shopping at big boxes like Home Depot, Lowe’s, RONA and Kent (in the latter two cases, their big box stores, because RONA and Kent, which operates in Atlantic Canada, also have smaller store formats) because of the size of the stores, the lack of personal relationships with the owners and managers of corporate-owned outlets, the tendency of these stores to focus more on the homeowner and DIYer, and the lack of focus on the contractor customer.

Most of those store brands have said, at one time or another, that they intend to improve their offerings to contractors.  At the Hardlines Conference, we heard the Home Depot version of that pitch.

The speaker was Jamal Hamad, director of commercial sales and tool rentals for Home Depot Canada.

The challenge for the Home Depot (and all retailers), Hamad said, was to “make an emotional connection with contractors.” And this is often difficult, he admitted, because “25 per cent of contractors, only, go to [our] pro desk. The other 75 per cent don’t. They shop in the aisles.”

The ways in which Home Depot is trying to connect with contractors is ever-expanding. The company is working on mobile phone apps where contractors can order everything they need, on-line, and get it delivered to the jobsite, Hamad revealed.

The company has also created an all-new outside sales team, to visit jobsites, over the past three years. It has tried to put more and more former- or retired-contractors in the aisles of its stores. It has introduced programs where homebuilders and renovators can have products direct shipped from manufacturers and suppliers to their jobsites, instead of having those products pass first through Home Depot stores (adding delays and costs).

Now, in Western Canada, Hamad said, Home Depot is offering a heavier selection of rental equipment. Heavier as in beginning to rent Bobcats, trenchers and backhoes at 18 stores throughout the West.

Home Depot also has a “premier group” among its various contractor credit card offerings, that “is like the black card for American Express” users, Hamad explained. Contractors who qualify for this level of credit can get volume rebates and cashback rebates on their purchases.

 

 

Posted by
Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
13 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I always love heading into home depot. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, lol.

  2. I don’t have any problem with Home Depot, I use them everyday. You have to time your visits to off peak hours. If you have any problems if you ask to talk to a manager they will resolve your issue.

    I have problems with Lowe’s and Rona, there customer service is horrible. I’ve been stone walled so many time I will only go there as a last resort.

    If Home Depot can figure out how to separate the contractors from the DIYer so that I can come in grab my stuff and get out I will use them more.

  3. I love Home Depot the Pro Desk staff know all the contracors by name here at the store I shop. They pull orders and recieve faxed orderes so I don’t even need to go into the store if I don’t want to. I think for a Big Retailer they are doing an amazing job but always room for improvement. longer Prodesk hours would be a benefit for sure.

  4. I thought I’d share the reply we receive on this article we blogged. Cheers, Alec Caldwell @CARAHS

    Rick Duchin at the National Association of the Remodelling Industry (NARI) LinkedIn group says:

    “Any contractor that uses Home Depot or any other competitor as a supplier is not looking at the whole picture. The day that Home Depot started to offer services and construction to homeowners was the last day I shopped there. It is unfair competition and when we give them a profit to do more advertising, what are we thinking. If you want more contractors quit competing against us and try helping us get more work”

  5. I lived in Delta BC for years and I probably was in Home Depot 4 days a week. I was an electrical contactor and found it very handy for smaller items. I’ve since retired and moved to Timmins Ont. I was very disappointed with the service here compared to BC. When buying misc. nuts and bolts from there bulk bin, the cash emptied every bag and checked every washer, nut & bolt?? The count was right but they made you feel like a thief. They didn’t empty there bulk boxes of 100 to see if there count was right? This happened a couple of times. When I shopped in BC they always assumed the customer was honest. When I questioned them about it they told me it was Home Depot policy. They told me if was unhappy with this type of service I was welcome to use the Home Hardware across the street. Needless to say, that’s where I now shop. Anyway that’s my bitch of the month and obviously there don’t any regards for there customers..Always besy to go with the smaller stores where the treat you with respect.

    • Home Depot isn’t getting my business. The last time I bought a piece of trim there the cashier measured it out and wanted to charge me for the extra 2″ that it was over 8′. This was a piece that they sell as an 8′ length. Needless to say, I told them to keep it.

  6. This just arrived and I thought I’d share this comment. Alec Caldwell@CARAHS

    Paul Bremner in the inLONDON Ontario LinkedIn Group says”

    “I make a concerted effort to use only local suppliers. I was mistreated horribly by the Home Depot on one occasion and I make every effort not to darken their doors. I have never found Rona to be very contractor friendly. These are stores for DIY weekend warriors”

  7. Everytime I compare pricing on lumber, trim, insulation, drywall with my local home hardware building centre, they are ALWAYS more, often a lot more. Why would I ever want to pay the same price as DIYers. When I call my home hardware, the general manager at the contractor’s desk knows who I am by the sound of my voice. Most of the employees at the lumber desk know my name when I go into the store. The general manager and the owner both live in my part of town, not in Atlanta. Home Owners helping Home Builders certainly could not ring more true for me!

    • OOPs, to be clear, what I meant to say was….

      Everytime I compare Home Depot pricing on lumber, trim, insulation, drywall with my local Home Hardware building centre, Home Depot is ALWAYS more, often a lot more. Why would I ever want to pay the same price as DIYers. When I call my home hardware, the general manager at the contractor’s desk knows who I am by the sound of my voice. Most of the employees at the lumber desk know my name when I go into the store. The general manager and the owner both live in my part of town, not in Atlanta. Home Owners helping Home Builders certainly could not ring more true for me!

  8. As an electrical contractor, I only use HD as a last resort. Some mornings their Pro Desk is closed and you need to use the customer service area. Also they field request and fill orders for DIYers at the Pro Desk. Not a contractor friendly store.

  9. I wonder why they want you to put a number of items on the little bag if there only going to empty them out and count the items? Maybe they need an employee to dole them out to you, then they know your not stealing a 3 cent washer. The mangers of these stores need to try and figure out the best policy for there customers….

  10. Would purchase all our products from the Depot-problem is payment terms to short!
    Sorry Home Depot cancelled our credit card!

  11. I rarely buy from Home Depot, only if they have a remarkable deal. Iv’e got a problem with a big company that says ” we’ll do it for you ” They steal our work whle kissing you to buy from them.

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