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Crain's Chicago Business reports that Home Depot is in the process of rolling out 80,000 square foot stores throughout the country that it believes conform to what women want: white racks and fixtures instead of orange, brighter lighting, less clutter, and appliances and kitchen layouts at the front of the store.

The new stores, about a third the size of the traditional Home Depot store, also are designed to be more competitive with Lowe’s, the number two home improvement chain which seems to be developing a better reputation for service and women-friendly layouts.

The first of the new stores opened in Georgia, and Chicago is among the markets earmarked for expansion of the female-friendly units.

Home Depot’s chairman, Robert L. Nardelli, has said that he wants to find new ways for the company beyond the building of traditional format stores; he is trying everything from stand-alone home and garden stores to investing in programs that allow Home Depot to get into the installation business.

Home Depot also announced that it has hired a new Chief Marketing Officer with extensive consumer packaged goods experience. John Costello, who began his marketing career at Procter & Gamble and has worked at Sears and most recently at Yahoo!, will join the home improvement company and be responsible for worldwide marketing and advertising, branding and research as well as helping management with long-term growth strategies.
KC's View:
We have to admit that the new formats will appeal to us, too, since we were born without the handyman gene that so many guys seem to have. Home Depot is simply overwhelming to us, but since it has put most of the local hardware stores out of business, we don’t have a lot of choices nearby.

We think it would be a mistake to be too specific about these stores being geared to women; it could alienate guys who aren’t Bob Vila-types but who occasionally need to buy the kinds of products that Home Depot sells.

That said, it strikes us that in some ways, this is Home Depot’s version of the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market – smaller, more specific in SKU count, and counted upon to help drive company growth.

As always, we approve of the notion of creating different kinds of formats that appeal to different kinds of customers. Home Depot is clearly headed in that direction, Costco and Wal-Mart are doing the same thing, and we think more grocers -- both chain and independent -- ought to contemplate a similar strategy.