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Home Depot's Challenge: Improve Shopping While Offering "Less"

Home Depot
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Home Depot

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Home Depot is closing stores. The home improvement retailer has been suffering from the same illness as the housing market.

In fact, Wall Street had a positive view on the news that HD is closing 15 stores and canceling plans to open 50 new locations. Why? Citi’s Deb Weinswig says that it is a sign that HD is refocusing on fixing its existing locations.

The reality is also that slowing square footage growth reduces capital spending and cuts the loss of negative cash-flow operations at 15 underperforming stores. But this doesn’t mean that Home Depot is stopping its expansion plans.

In fact, HD reiterated plans to open 55 new stores this year--36 in the U.S. and 19 stores internationally. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall in the meetings when executives decided which markets had the most hope at rebounding or staying strong during this downturn.

Here’s the challenge: Can you improve the customer experience in stores while you’re also cutting back on hiring associates? In other words, can HD and other retailers do more with less?

I reported on TV a few weeks ago about the expected drumbeat of store closures to come. Expect more. The ICSC reports that the forecast of store closures is the highest since 2001. Apparel stores have been the first to succumb, who will be next?

Please write in and let me know what’s happening in your town. And take the poll. Are you seeing mom & pops or big stores close up shop? Retaildetail@cnbc.com.

Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com