Home Depot to Close 15 Stores, Reduce Expansion

Atlanta–Atlanta-based home improved retailer Home Depot announced Friday it would close 15 stores and suspend the development of 50 stores, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.Home Depot attributed its difficulties to the housing slump and slowing economy. The store closings–at locations primarily in the Northeast and Midwest–will affect 1,300 employees. “Closing a store is always a difficult decision because it affects both our people and our communities,” Home Depot CEO Frank Blake said in a statement. “But, as with our decision to slow future store growth, this is the right decision and will bring long-term benefits to our associates and to our shareholders. … By building fewer stores, in the best locations, and making sure our existing stores are profitable, our company will be in a much stronger competitive position.”The retailer, which has 1,970 U.S. stores, will post a $586 million pre-tax charge in connection with the store closings and on-hold stores, including $8 million for severance and $11 million in inventory markdowns.Over the next three years, Home Depot plans to reduce capital spending by $1 billion. It still plans to build 55 stores in 2008, according to the Journal-Constitution, including 36 in the U.S.