Lowe's And Home Depot Scramble To Stave Off Housing Slump

Hit hard by the sorry state of the U.S. housing market, Lowe's recently cut its earning estimates, following the lead of Home Depot last month. But both retailers are scrambling to find ways to counteract the slump's impact on the $700-plus billion home improvement industry.

In addressing analysts and investors, Lowe's said it is investing more heavily in its "do-it-for-me" segments by expanding from just flooring to add roofing, fencing, window and siding installments.

The company also said it will heavily advertise its new line of energy-efficient, moderately priced home appliances and refrigerators developed in partnership with Frigidaire and Maytag.

Home Depot, meanwhile, announced that it is expanding its gas-station test, opening its third Home Depot Fuel store, in Acworth, Ga. (The first two are in Tennessee.) Designed to attract more contractors to Home Depot, the stations feature separate diesel islands, as well as a car wash suited to larger trucks, and a convenience store. A spokesman said the company is set to begin construction on a fourth test store, in Smyrna, Tenn., next week, and is in the permit phase for another station in the Atlanta area.

Lowe's said it expects the downturn to last from 12 to 18 months. But the Commerce Department on Wednesday reported an unexpected jump in sales of new housing, with an increase of 4.1 percent in August. So that forecast may be too grim.



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