Atlanta’s Home Depot starts building again, but slowly 

Home Depot is adding six stores this year, resuming modest expansion as it continues to outpace the troubled retail sector.

“We haven’t opened a U.S. store since 2013,” said Carol Tome, chief financial officer at the Atlanta home improvement chain. Three of the new stores are in the United States — locations in Florida and Texas are already open, while another is planned in Louisiana.

Home Depot has prospered while many retailers shrink or even collapse.

Tome spoke with the AJC after Home Depot reported that sales rose 4.5 percent to $23.9 billion in the company’s first quarter, while profit of $1.67 a share was slightly ahead of Wall Street expectations.

The company virtually froze expansion during the housing crash and recession, trimming costs and avoiding the kind of over-reach and painful retreat suffered by many retailers.

Now, Home Depot still won’t build and open a new store unless number-crunching warrants the investment, Tome said.

In assessing sites, the company looks at data including the number of households in the area, the average spending of those households and the presence – or absence – of competitors like Lowe’s, Tome said.

“There’s a lot of math,” she said.

But the math says there are still areas where Home Depot sees a “void,” a spot where an extension of the Big Orange brand would do well, Tome said.

“There aren’t many of those voids, but there are a few.”

Of the 1,979 Home Depot stores in the United States proper, and it also operates in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with Mexico and Canada. 

Ninety stores are in the company’s home state. Asked about further expansion here, Tome laughed.

“There are no voids in Georgia,” she said.

The nearest spot ripe for a new Home Depot is Charleston, where the company plans to build a store in the next few years, she said.

Despite adding only a handful of stores, Home Depot has steadily grown revenue for the past several years.

On Tuesday, Home Depot reported that its sales per square foot of store space had climbed 4.6 percent from a year ago. Yet by that measure Home Depot is still well below its most efficient year of 1999, Tome said.

“I want to get back to that peak,” Tome said. “We have to just continue to do what we do.”

Company officials said they expect to end 2017 with sales about 4.6 higher than last year.

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