updated 3/22/2004 6:22:01 PM ET 2004-03-22T23:22:01

Home Depot is going the way of retailers like Crate & Barrel and Macy's by offering an online gift registry, but will brides and grooms be eager to snap up miter saws or pressure washers?

Industry observers see it as a way for the Atlanta-based company to enhance its relationship with customers, even if it isn't a boon for the bottom line. The initiative will be formally launched Tuesday.

The home improvement chain says it is banking on its research showing that more people are getting married later in life, perhaps for a second time, and already have small appliances, fine china and cutlery. Instead, the company says, couples may be looking for power drills or other items they can use to upgrade the look of their homes.

Home Depot "allows them to express themselves in a more unique way," said Shelley Nandkeolyar, the company's e-commerce chief. "It adds another dimension to the gift registries."

Mark Mandel, an analyst with Blaylock & Partners in New York, said he doesn't think Home Depot's online gift registry will be a big boost profit-wise, but "it's a good thing for them to do because it doesn't cost them much and it is a way of strengthening their ties with their customers."

At rival Lowe's, spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said the North Carolina-based chain is evaluating new ideas like an online gift registry, but is not ready to make any announcements.

While Home Depot customers will be able to register for gifts for general occasions like moving to a new home or holding a baby shower, Home Depot is pitching its registry primarily to couples getting married. Wedding registries generated $6 billion in revenue for retailers last year, Nandkeolyar said.

No new blenders needed
Seventy-nine percent of the 839 people who have registered on Home Depot's Web site so far have been couples getting married. Among the top items selected were a double hammock with stand, a wheelbarrow, an electric power washer and a leaf rake.

Ann Culver, a 37-year-old from San Francisco who works in sales for a large telecommunications company, is one of the first people to sign up for the online registry. She is getting married Sept. 18.

"I'm a homeowner and also on the older side and this is my first marriage," Culver said. "I have already got all the kitchen stuff I need, so going to Home Depot and being able to get stuff for the house is great."

Customers will be able to set up registries and purchase items for them only through Home Depot's Web site. The company is considering eventually allowing customers to access the registries in stores, spokeswoman Mandy Holton said.

Carley Roney, editor in chief of The Knot Inc., a wedding advice company known for its Web site, said she believes the Home Depot gift registry will catch on.

"I think Home Depot is an appropriate place to register given the changing demographics of the marrying population," Roney said. "For a lot of couples who have bought homes together just prior to getting married, Home Depot becomes the ultimate place for their wish list."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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