Big Box Home Improvement Store Scorecard

A comprehensive study of 2000 consumers who shopped and made purchases from Home Depot, Lowes and Menards Big Box stores in 2006 has just been completed by Minneapolis, Minnesota based building materials research firm Market Resource Associates, Inc. (MRA)

Consumer respondents had to shop in at least 2 of the chains to qualify for participation and were not paid anything for their cooperation. The out-bound telephone protocol was administered to 56 markets within the 48 contiguous United States between July and October of 2006. The markets and resulting quotas were selected based upon housing activity in 2005. Further, the results of this latest study were compared to results from the same study undertaken two years ago.

In the 122 page comprehensive report, the 3 competitors are rated on 29 different product categories to determine which types of consumers shop for which types of materials at which chains. The 3 chains are also rated against 11 very specific attitudinal criteria. These criteria include but are not limited to:

,,« The store is the absolute best value for my money

,,« The store is the place I get the most useful help when I need it

,,« The store values me as a customer

Also studied was¡K which chains do consumers enter and in which do they actually purchase? In this regard, Home Depot has slipped; Lowes and Menards have improved over the previous study. In fact, Menards is the highest rated chain for the entered / actually purchased category. When consumers go to Menards, they know and find what they want. Slippage can be caused by consumers not finding the items they were looking for, as well as not being able to find assistance from store associates, among other reasons.

As lumber and related items tend to define the Big Box home improvement chain, a loss was noted at all chains in the number of lumber purchasers from the 2004 to the 2006 studies. Home Depot had the largest decline, followed by Menards and then Lowes.

In another category noted for larger projects ¡V rough electrical ¡V Home Depot lost over 40% of its previous purchasers, to Lowes losing 23% and Menards experiencing no change.

One must ask if consumers are becoming less involved in larger projects where these two product types would play a heavy role, or are they seeking other venues for their purchasing? Generally, as the housing market declines, which is true of many areas studied, larger Do-It-Yourself projects flourish as homeowners tend to add on or fix up their existing homes. This is not seen as the case from the data presented.

John Cashmore