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In San Antonio, remembering the customer

DeAndre Frowner, store manager, converted a background in law enforcement...
Store No. 6544 on Sunset Road is one of 19...
Left: Live goods showed strong sales gains in 2010, following...
Left: On Frowner’s office wall of fame, photos with Home...

SAN ANTONIO — Two things jump out to a first-time visitor of Home Depot store No. 6544 in San Antonio on a Friday. One is the heat coming off the parking lot. The other is the number of cars parked there.

Selling through a triple-digit heat wave, the store in the Alamo Heights neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the city’s international airport, is described as heavy on the contractor business, and that means busy Friday afternoons.

“At this particular store, contractors come in, and they want to get the job done or get their supplies before the weekend,” said store manager DeAndre Frowner. “Tomorrow, this store will be a little quieter.”

It’s difficult to point to a distinguishing feature of the 11-year-old Alamo Heights store—one of 19 Home Depots in San Antonio. But in Frowner’s mind, the differentiator is clearly its emphasis on customer service. While it’s not unusual for a store manger of any chain to suggest such a commitment, Frowner brings his own background and own approach to the concept, and he points to market-leading scores in its online voice of customer surveys.

The economic downturn is no excuse to let up, he told a visitor from Home Channel News.

“We realize that people still are going to need to repair their homes,” he said. “People are still building. And folks have a choice, and we need to make sure they know that we’re the one-stop shop here. We back our product—this is The Home Depot. The recession is the recession; we’re not going to let that faze us at all. We’re going to take care of our customers.”

While being interviewed, Frowner was approached by a customer who expressed surprise that the man helping him in the lumber aisle a few days ago was, in fact, the store manager. “I like to be out there with the associates and working with them,” he said.

For Frowner, a background in the military and law enforcement led to the pursuit of a job in retail loss prevention. Instead, he got his foot in the door by helping people load up in the parking lot at an El Paso store.

“When they eventually moved me into the store, I said I didn’t know anything about selling,” Frowner recalled. “They said, ‘We’ll teach you.’ And that’s the thing about The Home Depot. They teach you.”

Every store is different. For instance, in El Paso, there were a lot of customers buying in mass quantities, presumably coming across the border from Mexico. In Alamo Heights, the story is more about customer service and a strong pro clientele.

After a drought hurt sales considerably in 2009, live goods has been a bright area for Alamo Heights in 2010. The key, Frowner said: “Keep them in stock, and keep them watered. It’s 100 degrees out there.” And that’s no excuse.