How Do Your Stores Measure Up?

November 13, 2008 - 11:54

Last month, I read an article on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website, www.ajc.com, about Marvin Ellison. If Home Depot is one of your customers, you may have heard his name. If Home Depot isn’t one of your customers, you may want to find out what he is doing for the home improvement retailer.

Ellison is Depot’s executive vice president of U.S. stores. According to his bio on Home Depot’s website, “He is responsible for driving alignment and execution across the company’s retail divisions and overseeing operations of more than 1,950 stores.” According to the AJC article, Ellison’s job is to improve the store experience for Depot’s customers and employees.

A Quick Read

A retail “lifer,” Ellison spent 15 years working for Target before joining Home Depot in 2002. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he knows within the first 60 seconds he is in a Home Depot store how good customers can expect their experience to be.

The first things Ellison looks at are the store’s front apron, the front aisle, how associates are interacting with customers, the store’s cleanliness and shopability, and what the competition in that region looks like.

He said he asks himself certain questions: What does the front apron, including the garden center, look like? Is it inviting? Are the aisles clean and easy to shop?

What are the store’s employees doing? Are they helping customers or absorbed in other tasks?

Then he checks out the competition: What is their customer service like? What products are available at competing stores that aren’t available at a Home Depot? How do their prices differ?

While a lot of this sounds like good old-fashioned common sense, Ellison said as soon as he has those answers, he has a pretty good idea how that store will perform.

Power Hours

In-store customer service has been one of Depot’s top priorities since Frank Blake took the reins of the company last year. Obviously, Ellison has his marching orders, and he said one of his goals is to bring the company’s image back to where it once was.

To help ensure that customers have a positive experience, Ellison told AJC that Home Depot now has established “power hours” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During those four hours, Depot associates are expected to focus solely on customers, instead of restocking shelves or other tasks.

Ellison is also a strong proponent of the company’s Inverted Pyramid strategy that puts customers on top and management at the bottom.

Response on non-Depot-sponsored employee blogs has shown that the verdict is still out on whether all these changes are practical or even possible. But at least there seems to be a concerted effort to make them happen.

Have you seen evidence of Ellison’s efforts at any of the Home Depot stores in your region? What do you think of his plan? Drop me a line at thodson@sgcmail.com.

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