Urban areas represent the final frontier for big box stores, and Manhattan, thanks to its unique geographic, logistical and cost challenges, is among the most daunting.
But the lure of several million densely-packed consumers, and the prestige of establishing a presence in this world capitol, inspired national chains Best Buy, Circuit City and Kmart to come up with new configurations to suit the concrete jungle.
Joining the fray is The Home Depot, which opened its first Manhattan store in September, bringing its New York City tally to 15 locations. (A second Manhattan unit will open uptown next month near Bloomingdale's.) More akin to the company's upscale Home Depot Expo than the prototypical big orange box, this cosmopolitan hybrid, one of a handful of urban concept stores, caters to all local demographics with a product assortment that runs the gamut from hardware to high-end home accents.
Indeed, the mix of products and services is clearly skewed toward the needs of space- and time-challenged apartment and dorm dwellers. Amenities include a concierge desk, multilingual store maps and staffers, interactive how-to kiosks, same-day delivery service, personal shoppers that can take and place orders via wireless tablet PCs, special order kiosks and doormen to help hail taxis.
On the back-end, inventory and product flow is tracked with mobile ordering carts, for replenishment from a distribution center in New Jersey.
“It's a completely revamped business model,” said regional VP Jose Lopez. “It's a laboratory.”