Home Depot's E-Commerce: Under Construction

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Home Depot Inc. yesterday pushed back implementing e-commerce features into its Web site until late this summer.

The announcement marks the second time the firm has delayed taking its products online in the last year.

Home Depot, Atlanta, originally targeted the fall of 1999 to begin selling through its site after launching it earlier that year as an information-only location.

The company announced last August, however, that the plans had been postponed until June of 2000 because the company wasn't prepared to handle the fulfillment of online orders.

Home Depot yesterday said problems in developing a dependable fulfillment system for its 50,000-plus products are again a reason for the delay. Recent surveys and e-mails from offline customers have also caused Home Depot to re-evaluate its proposed e-commerce Web design.

"As you can probably tell, we are not the type of company that is the first to jump into the deep end of the pool," said Don Harrison, spokesman at Home Depot. "Luckily, our customers are not the shrinking-violet types. They told us to make the site as good of an experience as shopping at one of our stores, or they won't use it. This told us that we needed to reconsider the details of our e-commerce plans."

Even when his company does launch its e-commerce plans, it won't affect most customers. The late summer launch will only allow Las Vegas-area customers to make orders.

"We have delivery issues to work out," Harrison said. "That's a lot of what we'll do in Las Vegas. We want to get it right before rolling out in other cities."

Home Depot hasn't announced what other cities are planned for it e-commerce initiatives, although it does plan to extend its service nationally.

Harrison said the firm's site will likely use its 1,000-plus retail locations as warehouses and distribution points for delivery of the orders when it becomes national, but no final decision has been made.

Home Depot isn't ready to speak about marketing plans concerning its e-commerce site, he said. For instance, Harrison declined to comment when asked what kind of products will be available online or if his company would serve Internet customers in remote areas.
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