ATLANTA — Home Depot Chief Executive Frank Blake was grilled Thursday by investors, who also shop in his company’s stores, on the retailer’s commitment to customer service.
Several shareholders spoke at the Atlanta-based company’s annual meeting about poor experiences in Home Depot stores. They said some employees don’t seem well-trained in the store’s products, and they also criticized the performance of people who do home installations for the company.
One shareholder said he couldn’t get the attention of Home Depot workers. “They don’t see you or they don’t want to see you,” he said.
Blake said Home Depot is aware of customer service complaints at some of its stores, and he vowed, as he has in the past, to fix the problem.
“I apologize for any bad service you’ve had in our stores,” Blake told a woman who complained about Home Depot’s installation business.
Blake said at the meeting that Home Depot doesn’t plan to change its strategy of investing in its stores and trying to woo professionals, like contractors.
“We are keeping on the same strategy we had in 2007,” Blake said during the meeting at a conference center near the company’s headquarters.
The Home Depot Inc., the world’s largest home improvement store chain, has suffered from the slumping U.S. housing market. Its sales, profits and stock price have slid, and it previously announced it would close 15 of its flagship stores because they failed to meet company performance goals.
Also Thursday, shareholders again defeated a proposal that would have given investors an advisory vote on pay packages for several senior executives at the company.
The proposal submitted by a group of shareholders is a frequent one at Home Depot annual meetings in light of hefty compensation and severance packages given to its executives over the years, particularly former Chief Executive Bob Nardelli.
As in the past, the company’s board recommended that shareholders reject the proposal Thursday. Shareholders did, though 41 percent of votes cast favored the proposal. That’s about the same percentage of votes cast in favor of last year’s proposal.
On Tuesday, the company reported a 66 percent drop in first-quarter profit. It also said it doesn’t know if stimulus checks making their way to potential customers are enough to improve its fortunes this year.
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