Home Depot Goes Online in Las Vegas

If Sigfried and Roy need a hammer to fix their tiger cage, they should be able to order one online now that The Home Depot Inc. has launched its first Web-based sales program in league with six of its retail stores in Las Vegas.

After spending more than a year organizing its online sales efforts, the Atlanta-based home improvement retailer is now using Las Vegas as a test bed. Customers in the Las Vegas area can now use Home Depot's Web site to order 40,000 of the products it sells at the same prices they would pay in one of its brick-and-mortar stores.

Online shoppers can either pick up their purchases at one of the six Las Vegas stores, have the items delivered directly by Home Depot to a job site or have them shipped via United Parcel Service of America Inc. Depending on the success of the Las Vegas rollout, Home Depot plans to launch similar online sales programs in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, before the end of the year.

The company originally planned to start selling products online by July last year, but it delayed that schedule to fine-tune its Internet strategy. Part of the complexity it faced is that the hardware business doesn't lend itself to the same kind of order-and-deliver business models that online sellers of products such as books and groceries have created, said Home Depot spokesman Jerry Shields.

"All of our e-commerce will revolve around our stores," Shields said. "Our stores are our fulfillment vehicles." For example, Home Depot has built the online sales portion of its www.homedepot.com Web site to track each store's current inventory in real time to ensure that products ordered online will be available for customers to pick up.

The Web site was designed to handle up to 20 million customer sessions each day, the company said. Customers will be able to hunt for products by keyword, by brand or by stock keeping unit number. Stock inventories will also be grouped by profession, catering specifically to categories such as plumbing or electrical work.

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