Will 80,000 Seasonal Workers Improve Home Depot’s Customer Service?

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Cold, snowy weather is not a harbinger of spring. Seasonal hiring at home improvement stores is, however. Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) announced plans Tuesday morning to hire up to 80,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal workers to staff up for the spate of home improvement and gardening projects that mark the beginning of spring.

Last month, Home Depot competitor Lowe’s Companies (NYSE: LOW) said it planned to hire 50,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal workers on its second annual National Hiring Day of February 13.

Home Depot operates some 2,288 retail stores in the United States, Canada, Mexico and U.S. territories employing more than 400,000 people. Lowes has 2,240 stores spread across the same geographical area and more than 310,000 workers.

Potential new workers at Home Depot are encouraged to use the company’s online hiring program that allows them to schedule their own interviews to help them get through the hiring process more quickly.

Looking back, it’s interesting to note that Home Depot has for the past three years maintained its announced seasonal hiring level at 80,000 while the store’s revenues have risen by more than 13%, from $88.5 billion to $100.9 billion. Net margin (on a trailing 12-month basis) has risen from around 7.9% to 10.0%, while gross margin is up less than 0.5%.

Lowe’s has lifted its net margin from around 4.3% to about 5.2% in the same period, although margins dipped in the quarter ended last October. Revenues are up nearly 32% since early 2016.

Both stores are doing more, if not with less, at least without having to increase costs for employees. A large part of the productivity improvement is likely due to the companies’ investments in technology.

Part is also due to holding the line on employees. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for 2018, Lowe’s scores right at the specialty retail average of 78 for customer satisfaction while Home Depot scores 76. For the past three years, Home Depot has managed to hit the average just once while Lowe’s has posted an average score on two occasions.

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