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Home Depot Gets Convenient

ATLANTA -- Home Depot customers may soon be able to pick up a six-pack of soda and fill up their tank in the parking lot if the chain's convenience store test proves a success, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The home improvement retailer will begin testing convenience stores in the parking lots of four Nashville Home Depots this December. Stores will sell gasoline, milk, chips, beer and other convenience items. Two stores will have car washes.

"Our research continues to show us that consumers are time-starved," said company spokeswoman Paula Smith. "So we know that anything we can do to make the process of shopping easier . . . is a good idea."

Other big box chains, including Costco, Wal-Mart and Kroger, already have gas stations outside some stores.

Analyst Bill Sims with Smith Barney said some retailers use gasoline as a loss leader and a way to drive traffic into their stores.

"If Costco's doing it, and Wal-Mart's doing it, why not Home Depot?" Sims said. "I would think it would be a great traffic driver and more of a one-stop-shop."

In recent years, Home Depot has tested small-scale McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts inside a handful of stores.

Lowe's once tested Krispy Kreme doughnut sales at its stores, but chose not to expand the idea.

Home Depot isn't saying which store sites could get convenience stores if the program spreads.

"We have to look at congestion and whether there are other [convenience store] offerings on site," Smith said. "Until we evaluate the results and make some decisions about moving forward, it's too early to speculate."
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