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Ralph Mesher, bottom, adds a toe-kick to cabinetry in a display on Tuesday at the new Home Depot Design Center in Concord. The store opens Thursday. (Bob Pepping/Staff)
The newest Home Depot store opening Thursday in Concord represents the retailer's attempt to get in touch with its feminine side.

The store takes a different approach to home improvement: more "Trading Spaces" and less "This Old House."

You won't find any lumber yards, contractor-grade tools or commercial building supplies. What you will find are flower bouquets, well-lit bathroom and kitchen displays, stylish home furnishings and stacks of floral-print storage bins.

The Home Depot Design Center is the first of its kind in the country and will serve as a test site. A second Design Center will open next week in Charlotte, N.C.

The Concord site, at 1461 Concord Ave., is a 93,000-square-foot location that used to house an EXPO Design Center -- a division of Home Depot that sells high-end and premium merchandise. The store is fewer than 2 miles from another Home Depot.

"We're continually looking for ways to grow," said Jason Feldman, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Home Depot. "There are a lot of sales dollars in the city of Concord. This is another store in the market for us to reach consumers in a new and different way."

The company is using former Yardbirds locations to test out a smaller-size store. Home Depot bought Yardbirds, a Bay Area chain of 10 stores, in 2005.

The new Design Center format caters to women and couples with expanded showrooms, softer lighting and lower shelves.


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"When you take lumber and building materials out of the store, you expand the opportunities," Feldman said. "What this store does is it picks up where Home Depot leaves off."

Home Depot is known for warehouse-style stores that stock almost every nut, bolt and piece of lumber a contractor could dream of, but they lack customer service and comfort.

"It's a male-friendly home-improvement store," said Britt Beemer, a retail expert and president of America's Research Group. "It's a warehouse environment, and it's not clean and neat the way women like it. Lowe's is neat and clean."

Home Depot operates more than 2,200 stores nationwide. Its main competitor is Lowe's, a chain of more than 1,425 stores that has been to known to appeal more to women.

"In markets where they're battling Lowe's, that's their problem," Beemer said. "They're not getting that female shopper."

The new Concord store will carry about 25 percent fewer items than a typical Home Depot, said Tim Seymour, Home Depot's senior manager for merchandising. Instead, the store includes a home decor and furnishings department, home organization department and an expanded window and door gallery.

The store's signs feature icons, lights and artwork. Store directories are parceled throughout on tall red and silver columns.

The center of the store is composed mostly of showrooms displaying picturesque island kitchens and porcelain bathtubs.

"We wanted to make it as shoppable as possible," Seymour said.

The Home Depot Design Center also will include a design staff for major projects such as a new kitchen or bathroom, as well as a trade services desk geared toward professional home designers and architects.

"We don't have the luxury of space in our Home Depot stores to give the customer a full experience," Feldman said. "At the Design Center, if you were thinking of refreshing your bathroom, you can add a few new elements or start to redo the whole thing. You can come in with just the idea or inspiration or the magazine clipping."

Blanca Torres covers retail and consumer issues. Reach her at 925-943-8263 or btorres@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her blog, Shop Talk, at http://cctextra.com/blogs/shoptalk.

Home Depot Design Center

  • ADDRESS: 1461 Concord Ave., Concord

  • OPENS: 8 a.m. Thursday

  • HOURS: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays

  • PHONE: 925-356-0334