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What a Woman Wants

Home Depot thinks it’s figured that out. Again.



Big news! Home Depot finally got the memo. Last month, it announced that it had the key to its success going forward: It was going to take aim at the female shopper of the species.

“This year,” The New York Times reported, “Home Depot is recognizing that while women may be half of its customers, it has not catered to them in ways that translate into a larger market share.

“ . . . And that means sprucing up departments to get female customers excited about window treatments or new colors for makeovers of existing spaces.”

“For years, we’ve always had a bad — I don’t want to say a bad reputation, it’s more that people look at our business and think it is male-oriented, dominated,” Home Depot’s Gordon Erickson, senior vp, merchandising and décor, told The Times. “Fifty percent of our customers are female. We need to offer her products that she wants.”

Good for you, Home Depot, acknowledging that women do the shopping. Now go over there and stand in that line, yes that one over there, with Sears, Best Buy, Lowe’s, RadioShack, Kroger, Kmart, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Publix, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Staples, Meijer, 7-Eleven, Toys-R-Us, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Apple, Dillard’s, Office Depot, J.C. Penney, Dick’s, Foot Locker, Sony, Sports Authority and Borders, all of whom have had that same epiphany at least once in the last 17 years.

In the 1990s, Sears discovered it had a softer side. That worked for a while.


What, then, is Home Depot doing differently to court this elusive female shopper? It’s tying itself to Martha Stewart. Martha-designed paint colors, curtains, rugs, lamps, mirrors and other home furnishing accessories.

It always sounds so simple when a retailer is outlining its new, why-have-we-never-thought-of-this-before, strategy. Women with children push strollers, so widen the aisles. Women with jobs are time-pressed, so lower the shelves. Women like softer colors. Women like indirect lighting. Women like clear signage.

Do they? Only women require clear signage? And all women like softer colors and warmer environments? Yes, that’s why you’ll hardly ever find a woman shopping at Costco.

I wouldn’t want to dissuade Home Depot. Honestly, I think they’re onto something. It just makes me think that if you’re going to be really serious about attracting that woman shopper, you’d better really dig deep, beyond the softer lighting thing. Do your research and analysis. Really commit.

Just tying yourself to Martha Stewart is no shortcut to retail success. Is it, Kmart?

By the way, The Times points out that “this is not the first time that Home Depot has tried to figure out what women want. . . . In the early 1990s, it opened Expo Design Centers, showrooms with fresh flowers and other feminine touches. It closed those centers in 2009.”


Really? The flowers didn’t work? Go figure!



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