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Area jobs suffer big hit

Home depot layoffs: The chain will cut 750 jobs, close Brandon call center.

By MARK ALBRIGHT, Times Staff Writer
Published December 4, 2007


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About 750 people will lose their jobs when Home Depot Inc. closes a 6-year-old Brandon call center Jan. 28 that coordinates home installation services across the eastern seaboard.

The move is part of the struggling home improvement giant's larger moves to save money and return more responsibility for the customer experience to people who work in its stores.

The effort ranges from enhancing pay incentives to store performance to hiring more experienced tradespeople to staff plumbing and electrical departments.

Home Depot Inc. opened the call center in 2001 to consolidate all installation work sold in 550 stores east of the Mississippi River. Staffers juggle bids from contractors and coordinate scheduling for home installation work such as flooring, decor, window treatments and millwork.

Many customers complained that once the store clerk got their money, all their contact scheduling the work with Home Depot was relegated to the phone.

All that work now will be returned to the store departments that sold the job. Similar call centers in Dallas and Chicago that employ 100 people each will also be closed.

A few call center functions for such items as water heater replacement will be outsourced to a third-party call center in Orlando.

Home Depot plans to vacate the leased office building in Brandon.

"It was a tough decision," said Stephen Holmes, a Home Depot spokesman. "Unfortunately, there is no good time of year to do this."

Home Depot will offer outplacement services and possibly jobs in stores if skills and job responsibilities match. But it will be up to each store manager to decide whether to add people to handle the extra work load.

As a company, Home Depot has been trying to work its way out of two holes. The company is trying to restore its customer service focus that fell victim to cost-cutting under ousted chief executive Bob Nardelli.

The company recently lost $4-million, unloading for $8.3-billion Home Depot Supply, the contractor business assembled as part of Nardelli's vision.

Meantime, the housing slump and mortgage crisis have depressed the home improvement business.

Including the home installation business, Home Depot sales are down 3 percent through the first nine months of 2007 compared with 2006. Sales in stores open more than a year, a measure of a retailer's hold on its customers, are off 6 percent, customer transactions are down 5 percent and the average transaction slipped $2 to $57.40.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or 727 893-8252.

[Last modified December 3, 2007, 23:41:55]


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