Home Depot Braced for Covid Pain—Then Americans Remodeled

In the spring of 2019, shoppers filled Home Depot Inc. HD -0.39% aisles to grab deals on mulch, patio furniture and everything needed to get a garden ready for summer.

This year, as the coronavirus pandemic started to spread through the U.S., Home Depot canceled its spring sale events. Staff cleared aisles of discounted goods to make room for social distancing, abandoning the linchpin of the retailer’s peak season.

“It’s a really interesting time when you tell your field leadership team that right now our job isn’t to focus on driving sales,” said Home Depot Chief Executive Craig Menear. “We said, ‘We can’t do things normally and drive huge amounts of traffic to the stores.’ ”

The abnormal times drove traffic anyway. Americans, stuck at home without much to do, started painting, building, fixing and decorating. Government stimulus checks buoyed long-delayed home improvements, as did less money spent on restaurants and summer travel.

Daily foot traffic to Home Depot stores since April has been running at least 35% above last year’s, according to Unacast Inc., which tracks location data from 25 million cellphones on any given day. In 26 states, traffic doubled following a surge in late May.

Home Economics

Americans, stuck at home without much to do, have used the pandemic to remodel, fix and redecorate. Home-improvement stores were deemed essential services during lockdowns in many locations and allowed to remain open.

Percent change in Home Depot’s foot traffic compared with 2019