January-February 2003

Big Box Bulletin

Big Retailers Now Found Beyond Suburbia

If you live in a big city, in the past you had to drive to the suburbs to shop at one of the big retailers, such as a Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot or Costco, but that isn't the case anymore, reported a recent article in The Washington Post

"Some experts in urban design argue that the wide-open, pedestrian-unfriendly parking lots and sprawling one-story buildings distant from the street that are routine in suburban stores do not make sense in dense urban neighborhoods. Some worry that big-box retail may be so divergent from the neighborhoods, and bring enough unwelcome side effects, that they could make those areas a less prosperous, less desirable place to live," said the article.

An article was published in the Washington City Paper that was extremely critical of a recent Home Depot that was built in the Brentwood neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C. According to the Post, the article described the store like this: "A huge wall lumbers around the outside of the facility, greeting newcomers with a face full of concrete and carving out a crude square of commerce from the surrounding community."

R.L. Watson, who lives right behind the new Home Depot, isn't too pleased with the new store either. "Nobody got the homeowners' approval. It's an eyesore. It's right up against my bedroom window, just a big wall Plus, there's a water outlet in the wall that's going to flood my yard when there's enough rain," said Watson in the article. However, he wasn't all complaints. "I'm glad we're getting something in here. It's how they set it up that gets to me," he said.

There are more optimistic neighborhood members. Johnsie Petite, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, said she is happy she doesn't have to travel to another section of town to shop. "I almost get myself in trouble going in there so often, buying stuff for every little thing that goes wrong in the house," she said.

According to the article, "Others are glad for the jobs, and that residents of Brentwood no longer have to travel downtown or to the suburbs for work."

Wickes to Sell Wisconsin and Northern Michigan Operations
In a joint announcement made on October 30, 2002, building products distributors Wickes Inc. in Vernon Hills, Ill., and Lanoga Corp. of Winona, Minn., announced the signing of a definitive agreement for the sale of Wickes' assets in Wisconsin and Northern Michigan to Lanoga's United Building Center division.

Specifically included in the transaction are 14 lumberyards and three component plants in Wisconsin and 17 lumberyards and one component plant in Michigan. The locations generated combined sales of approximately $300 million in 2001. Additionally, as part of the sale, Lanoga will also assume ownership of two equipment repair shops, one located in each state. Wickes will retain its operations in the Southern half of the lower peninsula of Michigan, including all of its existing operations in Coldwater, Davison, Grand Blanc, Grand Rapids, Owosso, Port Huron, Romeo, Mason, Rochester, Monroe, Jackson and Kalamazoo.

The transaction was expected to close within 45 to 60 days. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 

Home Depot Testing Self-Serve Check-Outs
Home Depot, which is based in Atlanta, says it recently launched one of the largest, most advanced upgrades of front-end, check-out technology in U.S. retailing history.

"We call this strategy FAST (front-end accuracy and service transformation)," said Troy Rice, senior vice president of operations. "FAST will significantly improve the speed, accuracy and service levels at the check-out counters for millions of Home Depot customers and set the standard for the industry."

Home Depot is partnering with NCR Corp. and Microsoft for the hardware and software aspects of its self-check-out stations, which are called FASTLANES.
Currently, FASTLANES are being tested at stores in Massachusetts, Georgia, Illinois, Washington, Arizona, California, Vermont and Nevada.

Home Depot also recently announced an online partnership with Canada's Grocery Gateway for the home delivery of hundreds of home improvement and household items to customers in the Greater Toronto area and Southern Ontario.

More than 200 home improvement products, ranging from light bulbs to hand tools to carbon monoxide detectors and clothes hangers, will be available to consumers on Grocery Gateway's website at


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