Home Depot's Expo Heads for the Exit

Another big retailer is bowing out of the game. This time it's Home Depot's Expo Design Centers. The company is closing all of its 34 Expo stores, including our own Bethesda, Columbia and Fairfax locations.

These stores were a souped-up version of Home Depot's bath and kitchen departments, where you could find art deco pedestal sinks, modern wall-mounted toilets, kitchen countertops made of unusual types of wood like African teak or natural stone, showerheads with lighting effects and a toilet hidden within a walnut cabinet. But the company said the business "has not performed well financially and is not expected to anytime soon." A company press release went on to say that "the demand for big-ticket design and d├ęcor projects has declined in the current economic environment."

I never could bring myself to pay several hundred dollars for a bathroom faucet when I could get a similar one for around $100. But plenty of friends, as well as interior designers who I've interviewed for Shop To It, say it's a great place for high-end, unique kitchen and bath items. If anything, it was a nice place to get ideas.

So the question I had when I heard the news was, when is the sale? Inventory will get marked down by at least 10 percent starting today, according to Sarah Molinari, a Home Depot spokeswoman. A liquidation company is handling the sale so details on what exactly would be discounted and by how much is hard to know, she added. Many of its luxury manufacturers will not want their items discounted, so the sales could be spotty.

So will Expo be missed? Where do you find stuff for your bath and kitchen projects? Who has good tile and where are the best kitchen cabinets? Please post a comment below and answer our poll while you're at it.

By Tania Anderson |  January 27, 2009; 12:00 AM ET General Interest , Home Improvement
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I never understood Expo and believe that the only reason people shopped there was to boost their ego and give them the ability to tell people that they did their kitchen/bath remodel through them. Retailers are followers and if the Expo business model was so good why didn't Lowe's follow?

For the most part it seemed like Expo was simply an over-priced Home Depot...granite was 15-25% more and a ceiling fixture that cost $400 at Expo was $175 at HD (same manufacturer, different box). How much market is there for $600 faucets and $800 toilets? If you want a good selection of plumbing fixtures at all price points you can easily visit a Ferguson showroom and get better deals.

Our neighbor spent nearly $35K on a kitchen remodel about 18 months ago and only realized about 40% of that in increased property value and with property values tanking it really wasn't a wise investment. We spent under $12K on a project that looks nearly identical, but we shopped smarter and bought LG appliances instead of Viking and Sub-Zero.

Finally, if you want to have a high-end retail vibe you need to treat customers as if they matter. Waiting 20-30 minutes for help does not create a sense of exclusivity, it simply turns people off.

Posted by: skipper7 | January 27, 2009 10:06 AM

Expo is about a lot more than kitchen & bath fixtures. I've bought a beautiful area rug there, wall to wall carpet, light fixtures, window treatments and some lovely accessories. Also, patio accessories. I will definitely miss them. I agree that a faucet is a faucet, but there are precious few places around here to find nicer items in the home goods categories. Pottery Barn and Crate & barrel are so redundant.

Posted by: conchfc | January 27, 2009 10:36 AM

I will miss them not for the rugs and home decoration stuff, which can be found everywhere, but for their displays of high quality (and, yes, high-end) bathroom and kitchen fixtures/appliances. They had a great showroom comapared to most places.

that said, their customer service was terrible--no one could ever help you find anything, and worse much of it had to be ordered, but no one wanted to take your order. I read somewhere that the displays were great because manufacturers paid for the displays--well, their cost was my gain at least in looking at the stuff. Oh well.

Posted by: ah___ | January 27, 2009 10:46 AM

There is still "the Great Indoors" operated by Sears.

Also directbuy, but they are membership.

Posted by: ziggyzippy | January 27, 2009 11:24 AM

We thought about using them for a home improvement project, then found out we could get everything done with better quality products, better service, and better prices, by using a local business.

It's no wonder Expo bit the dust.

Posted by: JoeSchmoe06 | January 27, 2009 6:31 PM

Skipper 7,

I take Sub Zero and Viking over LG for appliances anyday. Especially a Viking
range or cooktop and wall ovens. If you cook the Viking is far superior and both the Sub Zero and Viking will last 2-3 times as long as the LG crap from the ROK.

Posted by: sheepherder | January 29, 2009 7:26 AM

Expo was never competitive on price, only a convenient place to look at things and then buy elsewhere.

Posted by: mdresident | January 29, 2009 8:38 AM

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