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What Lowe's & Home Depot Could Learn From Target (and Me)

Filed Under: fix-it

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The problem with big box hardware stores like Lowe's and The Home Depot is that (outside of their garden centers) they are still catering to tradesmen when half their customers are actually women. Tired and grumpy women.

Each time I shop at either one (and, no, I have no preference), I leave asking myself: why can't these hardware behemoths be more like Target, Walmart, or similar mega-stores, where shopping is fun ... or at least easier. How so, you ask? Read on! Here's my list of requests for Lowe's and Home Depot execs:

1. Bring in door greeters and maps so we customers don't waste time walking (and walking and walking) up and down the aisles searching for that certain essential dood-ad or trying to locate the bathrooms. Would it be so hard to install mall-style store directory kiosks, stocked with printed store layout leaflets?

2. Speaking of bathrooms, move them close to the main entrance, I beg you. Notice how the bathrooms are up front and clearly marked at Target and Walmart? Now there are some convenient conveniences!

Consider my last excursion to The Home Depot: Lugging a weary, potty-training toddler, I, and another female customer who was in a wheelchair, roamed up and down for an eternity searching for the women's restroom. She found it first, waaay down the back ... and sort of off to one side ... oh, and down a corridor. Enough said.

3. Make it simpler for me to decide what to buy. Especially tools. I need attractive product displays. I need signs. I need guidance. I look at 20 power sanders and I have no idea which one I need. Please. Take a cue from Target on this and check out their attractive, (fairly) orderly and brightly-lit vacuum cleaner display.

Heck, even pet owners have it easier. Have you noticed PetSmart arranges and labels doggie rawhides in order of chewing difficulty? (Arthritic Dachshund? This end! Great Dane puppy? Other end!) Take note.

4. Bring on the coupon savings. As I've mentioned, many of your customers are women. I dunno why, but we ladies have this weird predilection for coupons. Something about the thrill of getting a great deal, or at least feeling like we did. It works for Macy's, Costco and countless other stores. Why not give it a try, guys?

5. Replace the Paint Department with Decor Central. It's still a man's world in the paint departments of Lowe's and The Home Depot. Burly men in aprons belting lids onto paint cans with man-sized mallets. Cripes, they are no use to me. Sure, they can mix. But can they offer advice about color selection? Sometimes ... if you luck out.

Solution: Re-position the paint mixing counters out back and replace them with home decor consultants. We don't seriously expect paint mixing guys to help us with our decorating questions. So why give them the best spot in the store?

6. Make your websites more informational, please. You both have attractive websites. But they're still lacking detailed product info, including quality product photos. This matters big-time because I, like many other DIY'ers, typically do online research before, during and/or after a visit to the actual stores. But I've found both sites are sadly lacking in this area.

Ponder this: I can visit Eddie Bauer's site and pull up a long description, three photos with zoom option and 360-degree views for a $15 t-shirt! Yet searching for bathtubs worth $500 and up at The Home Depot or Lowe's sites, I get just a few words, basic dimensions, and a smallish photo of each product. Frustrating? I'll say.

So there you have it. Nitpicking? Maybe. Or perhaps I'm really on to something here. Get this: the economy is down and you both need to revive sales. Price cuts help, for sure. But if you want customers like me to fork over more cash, you should think hard about boosting the in-store experience, too. I'll be waiting!


  • Kristin

    Amen! I actually worked at one of those stores for a year. They don't even have very good deals during Black Friday either. I wonder how profitable a store would be if it had a feminine name and followed your suggestions ~ hmmm... I feel a business plan coming on! Kristin @ http://www.prudentandpractical.com

    Reply
  • joshgoes

    First of all, what planet do you live on where shopping at Walmart is fun?

    I find the spirit of this article contradictory to the DIY mindset.

    1) Greeters and Maps? Most Lowes / Home Depots are similar in size if not smaller than a Super Walmart / Target. Try looking up at the GIANT signs overhead to find the correct general vicinity. If you need more help from there, you can usually ask some nice associate who will either point you to exactly what you need. I don’t want to absorb the added cost of some employee standing at the door telling me to have a nice day. I generally want to be left alone in the first place.

    2) Get over it and walk to the back of the store. You know that’s where they are. You would really suggest they should re-plumb every store to move the bathrooms to the opposite side of the building? Being a DIYLife writer, have you ever looked into the cost of moving a toilet even 6 inches?

    3) I’ll figure out what I want to buy on my own, thank you. I don’t want the shiniest widget with the most blinking lights and attachments force-fed to me. If you don’t know which type of power sander you need ahead of time, why are you trying to buy one? Do some research. When in doubt, RTFM.

    4) I hate coupons, bad idea. Next you’ll suggest those stupid club cards that have “member prices” so you can “feel” like you’re getting a special deal. I would hypothesize that most people go to Lowes or Home Depot with at least a general idea of what they are going to buy. A coupon for a dollar off of an 80 lb bag of cement isn’t going to motivate me to buy it, unless I came to the store with the intention of buying cement. However, If I notice Walmart has a coupon for a dollar off chicken breast, I might be able to work that into a dinner.

    5) Oh, yes! Please add the cost of employing an interior decorating specialist to my gallon of paint!

    6) Partially agree, but I’ve bought shirts that I didn’t look at in person. Hardly ever buy anything over $100 or so that I haven’t seen in person. Especially a tub… odd choice for an example. Last time I checked, Eddie Bauer only sells Eddie Bauer stuff. While you’re on the internet, maybe you could hop on over to the tub manufacturers website for more information? Once again, research. I do like how you tried to depart from the Walmart / Target comparison for this one. Their sites are not much better.

    Your proposed changes for the “in-store experience” sound positively awful, and “Get this:” your other suggestions would increase operating expenses, making those price cuts a little less likely.

    Reply
  • Javin

    Thank GOD someone said it before me. Why does every single store have to be geared towards the "frilly" women that want coupons and flashy lights telling them what to buy without doing a bit of research? When people shop at Lowes and Home Depot, they know what they're looking for when they walk in there. They can find it quickly by tilting their head up 10 degrees and looking at the massive 8' by 3' signs clearly marking all of their isles, and when in doubt, ask one of the many service people walking around.

    Frankly, I'll keep the stores as-is and save on the costs of frilly wrapping and false greetings at the door.


  • John

    Just wanted you to know that newer Lowe's have moved the bathroom's to the front of the store! My wife loves this fact! I have to be honest and say I was pleased as well.

    Reply
  • Joanna

    Wait, I'm a woman so I can't handle having to (gasp!) research a purchase? I need soft puffy clouds and gently blinking arrows to point me to the product with the highest relative markup? (Don't fool yourself; shelf placement of products at Target et al. has nothing to do with making a better purchase and everything to do with which brand paid Target the most to put their product at the best eye-line.)

    I like to think that I can be trusted to make a selection and find a toilet on my own. I'm a little miffed that "oriented toward women" means "super dumbed down." Come on, aren't we a little further along than that?

    Reply
  • CB

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I agree with every single point that you list. Every single one.

    Reply
  • Blair

    Coupons? Only if they specify a checkout only for that purpose, trying to get through the lines is already a nightmare with people not knowing what do-dad they have, whether it will do what they need, etc. And half of the time they wait until they are at the register, and ask the clerk for advice, when they should have asked in the department they selected the item in.

    Fortunately all of these have contractors desks where those of us who know what we need, and want to get back to getting something done, rather than browsing, can check out.

    Reply
  • hints

    I agree with less than half of this.

    My biggest problem is with greeters and maps. If you are too afraid to approach an employee (they are hard to miss, look for orange aprons) and simply ask where something is, then you have worse problems than your shopping experience at a hardware store.

    Reply
  • lovinlowes

    Just my 2 cents worth. The Lowes here in my town HAS their restroom right up front next to the exit doors. The biggest problem I have come across...people being in the back of the store looking for it, cuz that is where they expect to find it.
    Lowes DOES except coupons! Have you ever tried? They scan the barcodes on them just like anyplace else...so it doesn't take any longer to use them at Lowes as it would at any other store. They even send percent off coupons out in the mail, and they are found inside moving packets you get at the post office.
    Lowes and Home Depot stores are NOT department stores. They are WAREHOUSE stores. You dont pay for the frills and flashing lights...
    Lowes employs Specialists in all of their departments, and many are trained or have great knowledge of several departments in their stores. I would not necessarily ask a Paint "Mixer" (that term was condescending, wasnt it?) about helping with Home Decor descisions, but I WOULD ask the Home Decor specialist their opinion!
    One last thing. I know for a fact that the Lowes in my area DID have printed maps with very detailed layouts of their store. Over time, they just were not needed. There is someone right at the Return Desk that often greets you as you walk in, and there are associates everywhere that offer great customer service to men and women alike.

    Reply
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