Even carpenters and plumbers need gas. So Home Depot, which now calls itself a “home improvement specialty retailer,” is centering on “fueling stations,” a euphemism for gas stations. They are also getting into the C-store business, opening up a 2,700 s.f. convenience store to go with the “fueling station.” (Do they call a bathroom a “personal hygiene station”?) The site will also keep those pick up trucks clean with a Home Depot car wash. The “fueling station” has a separate “diesel island” to allow professionals to fill up large vehicles with high-speed dispensers and pay with fleet cards. The car wash was built to handle large pickup trucks and vans, and the store offers giant containers of coffee and larger sizes of snacks for contractors to take to their job sites. “The Home Depot Fuel strategy complements our recently announced plans to reinvest $350 million in our retail stores in the second half of 2006,” said a Home Depot senior vice president in charge of “Growth Initiatives.” “It’s another way for us to continue to grow store revenue by delivering innovation, great value and one-stop-shop convenience to our customers. Plus it’s no secret that the same contractors who spend a lot of time in our stores are also heavy customers of convenience stores.” Home Depot’s press release on their gas station also quotes the Georgia commissioner of the Department of Economic Development as saying, “I consistently hold up The Home Depot as a shining example of a company that has used Georgia’s advantages to grow from an entrepreneurial small business to a worldwide brand.” Home Depot opened its first gas stations in Brentwood, Tenn., and Hermitage, Tenn., earlier this year. The Home Depot projects that each fuel location, including the new Acworth store, will have revenue of $5 million to $7 million per year.
In fiscal 2005, The Home Depot had sales of $81.5 billion and earnings of $5.8 billion, which means it made almost as much profit as Wal-Mart with only one-third the gross sales. Wal-Mart was one of the first national retailers to pump into gas stations more than ten years ago. Today, many grocery store chains have rolled out discount gas stations as a way to drive more customers into the parking lot. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the over-construction of these environmentally-unfriendly facilities. Sprawl-Busters has been involved in citizen/ big box gas station fights in at least four states. Today, local gas station owners make good recruits for anti-Wal-Mart battles, whereas ten years ago they shrugged off such projects. Now every Home Depot that comes to town will eventually come with a convenience store and “fueling station,” encouraging more local businesses to sign onto to anti-big box efforts. For earlier stories, search Newflash by “gas.”