When retail giant Home Depot bought 10 Yardbirds hardware stores in California last December, the California chain employed around 650 workers. This week, to no one’s surprise, Home Depot announced that the Yardbirds stores will all close as of July 1st. The Yard birds “supercenters” in Santa Rosa and Martinez, California will turn into Home Depots and reopen in November. The store in Rohnert Park, California will turn into a Contractor’s Warehouse sometime next year. Home Depot will close the Yardbirsd’s stores in Vallejo and Vacaville, California, as well as the company’s headquarters and warehouse in Petaluma. Home Depot told the Associated Press that it would try to find jobs for the 650 Yardbird’s employees whose jobs are ending. Eight out of the ten Yardbird stores are much smaller than Home Depot’s typical store, and thus will close. Yardbird’s was one of the main California competitors to Home Depot before the company was bought up by Home Depot.
The Yardbird’s story is emblematic of what is happening in the home improvement industry. The local hardware stores, and the regional chains, are all being bought up, or are closing down, as the industry consolidates around the two major leaders, Home Depot and Lowe’s. In 2004, Home Depot and Lowe’s had combined sales of around $110 billion. For California shoppers, the end of the Yardbird’s store means not only a loss in customer service and a product line that Home Depot often did not carry, but a loss of hundreds of jobs, which frequently is the byproduct of such consolidations. It took Home Depot only four months after buying Yardbirds to announce that all the stores would close. As diversity in the marketplace dries up, the competitive nature of the home improvement industry suffers. When Home Depot buys out its competitors, the consumer loses.