The Home Depot has opened the first of what will be four test stores planned for New Jersey before the year 2000, a "recreated" hardware store operating as Villager's Hardware. With about 40,000 sq. ft. of selling space and an outdoor garden center, Villager's focuses on small fix-up and maintenance projects rather than major home improvements.
More than half the items carried in a Villager's Hardware are different from what is available at a Home Depot. As opposed to the 40,000 to 50,000 different kinds of building materials, home improvement supplies and lawn and garden products carried in a Home Depot store, Villager's Hardware stocks about 37,000 items in 10 departments: hardware, plumbing, paint, electrical, seasonal/lawn and garden, lighting/lamps, housewares and gifts, storage and ready-to-assemble furniture, and decorative bath, window and wall fashions. Home Depot items such as kitchens, bath fixtures, floor covering, lumber, and doors and windows are not carried.
The first Villager's Hardware opened in June in East Brunswick, N.J., and a second will open in Garwood, N.J., later this year.
New Jersey was selected for the test because of its vibrant economy, its strong commitment to new business and the availability of a qualified workforce, said Bob Wittman, Home Depot's senior vice president/business development, in remarks made at the grand opening.
The store has a commercial desk with its own entrance and service team of specialists set up for the convenience of commercial customers.
"We expect a strong base of commercial clientele," Wittman said. The store's hours are from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Villager's Hardware offers its customers six special resource areas:
- Project Solutions Center, where customers can get answers to technical questions from specialists, access more than 250 how-to and d‚cor books, or just relax and read. Included are three stations where customers can view how-to videos.
- Project Solutions Theatre, where store associates conduct consumer how-to seminars and product demonstrations. Taped video segments will be shown on a continuous loop basis when no live seminars are scheduled.
- Tool Demo Center, where customers can try out every tool they buy and hear explanations of features and benefits, so they can be sure they are buying the right tool for their needs.
- Cutting Center, with more than 400 different SKUs of rope, chain, tubing, hose, wire, Velcro, weatherstripping and Plexiglas cut to order. This is also where customers can bring doors and windows to be rescreened.
- Customer Pickup, for customers who buy large items such as grills, lawnmowers or furniture. Store associates will load the merchandise into the customer's vehicle.
- Move-It Center, where customers can find virtually everything they need to move anything, including casters, wheels, hand trucks, moving dollies, blankets, boxes, "bubble" wrap and tape. This area also has a UPS package shipping center.
In addition to the service centers, nearly 1,000 signs are posted throughout the store, offering how-to facts, simple instructions, shopping lists or helpful hints for specific projects.
"We expect that the mix of products we offer will have wide appeal to both consumers and professionals," Wittman said.
Home Depot first announced its plans for the test of a new hardware convenience store in 1998, citing data that indicated this market segment - worth $50 billion - took place outside larger home centers.
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