Sometimes it takes a big company a long time to understand a little message. But the world’s largest home improvement retailer, because it is running out of places to build its huge stores, is now proposing smaller stores — about half the size of its usual footprint. Home Depot is expected to announce this month that it will “test” smaller stores — but only in urban areas, places where it does not have enough space for a bigger model, or where local governments will not approve a big store. In San Francisco, California, 5 “neighborhood format” stores are slated to open — because the city would not approve larger stores. These smaller stores will range from 26,000 to 45,000 square feet. Home Depot is also opening two smaller stores in Manchester and Winchester, Tennessee in June. The communities of Concord, Alamo, Petaluma, San Rafael and San Pablo, California have smaller Home Depot stores in strip malls. They offer basic tools, garden supplies — but many will not stock lumber. The neighborhood locations will stock 20,000 different products, less than half that of in a typical Home Depot.
Home Depot has been struggling in many communities, where local officials and citizens don’t want to accept the superstore variety. Where a big store will not fit into a small site, all retailers should back off and redesign their stores to scale them appropriately. The only question about Home Depot’s commitment to smaller stores is — what took them so long?