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Home Depot’s Arrival Fuels Hardware Store Competition

Do-it-yourselfers will be thrilled.

The world’s largest home improvement retailer has landed in Spokane and promises to heat up the competition.

Home Depot opens a 130,000-square-foot store at Sprague and Fancher in the Spokane Valley today. It will go head to head with Eagle Hardware and Garden and Home Base, both within a mile of the new store.

The increased competition will likely mean lower prices for consumers. Signs outside Home Depot’s mammoth orange and yellow store promise to beat any price, even a sale, by 10 percent.

“People are paying 12 percent more for home improvement items than they should because you don’t have the No. 1 player,” said store manager Tom Raynor. “You’ll find the competitors will drop their prices now.”

“You’re paying more than Seattle for home improvement, even though your cost of living is lower,” he added.

Home Depot has hired about 150 people, 110 from the Spokane area. Many employees came from other home improvement stores in the region, including Ernst Home Center Inc., which closed earlier this year. At least two former Spokane general contractors are now on Home Depot’s payroll.

Similar to Wal-Mart, Home Depot’s employees are called associates and are given a percentage of their compensation in stock options each year.

That benefit could make millionaires out of employees who stick around.

Home Depot’s gross sales hit $7 million in 1979, its first year in business. Last year, sales were $19.5 billion, with a net income of more than $930 million. The company operates 577 warehouse style stores in 40 states and three Canadian provinces. Its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Home Depot carries more than 50,000 items, including full lines of hardware, lumber, lighting, interior design, flooring and paint.

The Atlanta, Ga.-based company also is known as a good corporate citizen, offering free construction workshops for children every Saturday afternoon and making numerous corporate donations. Today, the new store will make a $5,000 donation to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. The company’s corporate contributions topped $7.5 million in 1996.

In this region, Home Depot seems focused on competing with Eagle.

“Everywhere we’re at, they’re either right across the street or in the next parking lot,” said Dave Bishop, Eagle’s assistant manager in the Valley. “For the first 60 to 90 days, it’ll slow down, then they’ll bring more traffic.”

In the Valley, Home Depot’s store is within a block of Eagle’s. On the North Side, Eagle is located at 6902 N. Division and Home Depot is building 24 blocks north, just north of the Division ‘Y” on the former Country Homes Building Supply site.

In Coeur d’Alene, a new Eagle is going up at Appleway and Julia, and Home Depot is scoping out a spot at Highway 95 and Canfield.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo