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Posted November 14, 2019 by pmcalary

Homeowners often use home centers like Lowes and The Home Depot to design their kitchens and to buy cabinetry. I have often defended home centers as not a bad place to work with if you are designing a kitchen and you do a good job finding the most experienced home center designer in your area. And contrary to what many people believe both Lowes and The Home Depost sell well made cabinets if they are upgraded as needed.

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However due to a combination of poor decisions made at the corporate level, I now feel that particularly Lowes, but also The Home Depot, are poor locations to design and to buy a kitchen. I’ll explain in detail below:

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The corporate environment at home centers has always been at odds with what is required to design and sell complex kitchen renovations. In the past, home center kitchen designers worked around company policies that hindered doing their job effectively. The reason for the lack of support by home center management is that designing kitchens is very different from retail sales.

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Designing and helping organize a kitchen construction project requires a great deal of knowledge and experience. Unlike selling retail merchandise where only a limited knowledge of the products you sell is required, designing kitchens requires far more expertise. Knowledge of complex kitchen cabinetry, countertop specifications, kitchen design, and of all types of construction is a must. Because of this quite often kitchen designers at both home centers were payed in line with department managers.

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As time has gone by home centers have continued to decrease what they are willing to pay kitchen designers and both Lowes and The Home Depot have tried to limit their responsibility in designing and managing kitchen renovations. For example both locations no longer allow the person designing your kitchen to ever see your home, or measure your kitchen. Both home centers also recently decided not to design or install kitchens that remove load bearing and even non load bearing walls. Despite the fact that over half of all kitchen renovations today involve removing a wall. This policy makes sense when you decide not to employ good kitchen designers, as it limits your liability.

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Lowes, in particular recently made sure that no experienced kitchen designers would work for them. About 5 years ago Lowes eliminated commission for their kitchen designers. At that time, their best designers earned double their salary in commissions, so to avoid a complete employee walk out, Lowes agreed to increase the salary of their experienced kitchen designers by 50% of their commissions from the previous year. So a designer that might have made 70K was suddenly making only $52,500.

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Main Line Kitchen Design’s phone rang off the hook with kitchen designers looking for work following this cruel decision by Lowes Corporate. Shockingly last month Lowes told all those kitchen designers still working for them that they were going back in time and reducing their pay by the 50% they gave them 5 years before. So now a designer that might have been making 70K in 2014 now makes 35K. This guarantees two things. First that no good kitchen designer will continue to work for Lowes and second that any experienced kitchen designer still working for Lowes will be insensitive to their customers needs and angry with their employer.

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The Home Depot has been less aggressive in their devaluation of the kitchen design profession but they have continued to undermine it, and under pay their designers. Designers can no longer measure their kitchens, move walls and doorways as needed, or even take responsibility for their designs. Contractors are expected to verify all measurements and take responsibility for any discrepancies. Home Depot kitchen measures that were once quite detailed and took over an hour are now routinely under 20 minutes.

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Lowes and The Home Depot also continue to have disingenuous sales. Pressuring customers to buy now or miss a sale that is manufactured on a regular basis. These sales drive closings on kitchens often before it’s sensible to be ordering. And home centers are generally not less than 5% from their competitors in price, even with sales. In fact, they are sometimes more expensive. Cabinet pricing from an independent cabinet dealer must be similar, when the independent dealer carries the same cabinet lines.

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IKEA

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The lucrative kitchen cabinet market has lured other retailers besides IKEA such as Costco into selling kitchen cabinets. But again, without the benefit of a true kitchen designer. As is so often the case, greed and a lack of knowledge is dangerous.

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Kitchens are far too expensive and complicated not to have a professional kitchen designer advising you on the important decisions you have to make during a detailed renovation. And investing in a poor kitchen design can not only waste money, it can actually devalue your home. Buying poorly made cabinets like IKEA is no longer even inexpensive, as many better constructed import lines are available. IKEA has also recently downgraded their cabinet construction making them a particularly poor choice in kitchen cabinetry.

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In my opinion, working with home centers when renovating a kitchen is no longer sensible. Here are some of our related blog posts:

https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/the-customer-that-almost-bought-their-kitchen-at-lowes/

https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/the-10-x-10-kitchen-and-why-the-linear-foot-price-for-cabinetry-is-a-lie/

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Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all our customers and blog readers.

. . . and of course. . .

Bon Appetit!

Paul

4 Comments

  1. Scott Mass, November 26, 2019 at 11:55 am:

    Excellent perspective and useful for my designers as an independent kitchen dealer with Lowes down the street

  2. Megan, November 30, 2019 at 1:28 pm:

    Hello, I realize that this article pertains to matters in the US, however I work at a Home Depot in Canada and we can absolutely move walls and door ways as needed, load bearing or not. We have experienced installers that do the measures, construction and installation. Yes it is unfortunate that designers can no longer go inside the customers home, however the measure form that the installer fills out is extremely detailed and always has pictures of the existing space accompanied with it.This provides more than enough information for us to create beautiful renderings using 20/20 and to ensure the customer gets their dream kitchen. We do have time sensitive sales that pressure the customer into buying their cabinets, sometimes this is exactly the push the customers need to get their project started especially if they have been waiting for years to update their home. Home Depot also has extensive instructor led training to ensure that each and every designer is aware of NKBA standards and best practices when it comes to designing kitchens as well as bathrooms, offices, closets or whatever other room the customer may be interested in doing. I have never worked on commission, so I cannot speak to what a loss that might have been. I can say that because we do not work on commission, I have a great partnership with the other two designers I work with. The only competition is with ourselves and with our sales last year. Home Depot has tons of incentive programs and contests to inspire us to be the best we can be. I of course cannot speak on behalf of all Home Depot stores, but mine is pretty great.

  3. pmcalary, December 1, 2019 at 8:16 am:

    Hi Megan,
    I have a couple of issues with your comment:

    First, yes Canada is a very different place than the US and also your store could be an exception to the rule, even in Canada.

    Knowing many US kitchen designers from Home Depot none of us would ever call Home Depot PK’s and their limited training extensive.

    On the job training is a poor substitute for the knowledge and years of experience needed to make a kitchen designer competent. And designing kitchens that remove load bearing walls requires construction knowledge from the designer that Home Depot does not give, and experience from the contractor that Home Depot does not test for.

    And finally, your comment is so well thought out, and addresses marketing and advertising issues so effectively, that Home Depot Corporate couldn’t have done a better job. Your email is listed as info @Homedepot.com which makes me suspicious that there might have been some direction from above in creating your comment.

    If not, you are as good a marketer as you might be a kitchen designer, and exceptional people are always “the exception to the rule”. The best kitchen designers I have met have always been exceptional people so your customers are very lucky to have you.

  4. pmcalary, December 1, 2019 at 8:21 am:

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks, I can’t believe that with the recent salary changes that the Lowes designers could be putting up much competition.

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