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Home Depot testing video conferencing with on-line shoppers to sell custom kitchens
Home Depot Inc.�is benefiting from the housing�market rebound. Its stock rose another 2.9% Thursday, the No. 2 gainer on the Dow. That led to a 25% gain so far this year, outpacing a 14% gain by its smaller rival Lowe's Cos. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. its other Dow retail counterpart, was up 11%.
Investors have praised the�retailer's moves�to improve customer service, use technology to free employees from tasks, and build regional distribution centers to streamline product shipping process. They also like the company's online initiatives.
At a Goldman Sachs conference on Thursday, Kevin Hofmann, president of Home Depot's online sales, said the company sees online opportunity not just on things like power tools or faucets. It's also using it as a medium to sell larger projects from floor installation to kitchen cabinets and catering to professional contractors.
For instance, the company can send 3D renderings of kitchen design to its customers online and is testing video conferencing to engage with them beyond just an online chat.
Home Depot this year also made it possible for customers to buy online and have their purchase shipped to a nearby store, which allows shoppers to order from Home Depot's online assortment of more than 300,000 items, versus the average store's inventory of about 40,000 items.
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