Make us your home page
Instagram

Home Depot southern president helps chain rebuild its brand

Ann-Marie Campbell, president of Home Depot’s southern division, speaks with employees recently at the store on 22nd Avenue N in St. Petersburg.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Ann-Marie Campbell, president of Home Depot’s southern division, speaks with employees recently at the store on 22nd Avenue N in St. Petersburg.

A native of Jamaica, Ann-Marie Campbell has worked her way up from Home Depot cashier to president of the giant's southern division. • She started in Miami 24 years ago earning a little more than $4 an hour; now she overseas 100,000 workers at 640 stores in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. • Her recent promotion comes as the nation's second-biggest retailer and biggest home-improvement chain has regained its reputation for customer service in independent ratings after cost-cutting CEO Bob Nardelli was ousted in 2006. St. Petersburg Times staff writer Mark Albright chatted with Campbell, 44, during a local store visit Thursday.

Ever since the housing collapse, Home Depot sales have been in the dumps, down 8 percent in 2008, 17 percent in the quarter ended Feb. 3. Have you seen any sign of a change in the Tampa Bay area or Florida?

Florida went into the downturn first. We're seeing some stabilizing, but nothing strong enough to call it the bottom. People are looking to stretch their dollar. Sales are improved in some areas like mowers, because some people are mowing their own yards. The garden center is doing fine, because we responded to demand for drought-resistant plants and plants from seed. It's too early to see a sales impact from the economic stimulus package, but we're ready to capture it because we listened to the customer.

How has Home Depot changed since the recession?

This company was built in the 1982 recession, so we're back to our very core: helping people save money through do-it-yourself projects. We're about value. We lowered prices on 1,000 items. We cut prices on store-brand paint 19 percent and our least expensive patio set to $199. We cut carpet installation for a house by 60 bucks to $139. We just eliminated all appliance home delivery fees without rebates or coupons. For Earth Day weekend we have buy-one-get-one-free herb and garden seed packages. Because of water restrictions here in the bay area, we stepped up our free clinics in drought-resistant landscaping and drip irrigation. And we're selling lots of rain barrels. Unemployment may be high, but the employed will find deals. At my home in Atlanta, I faced a $5,000 bid to trim the trees. Last week it dropped to $2,500.

How did you get into retail?

I grew up in it. My family owned a furniture/appliance store near Kingston, Jamaica. I worked there all summer but lived in a very structured environment the rest of the year at an all-girl Catholic boarding school. When my mother went back to Miami after going to nursing school, I got a job at JByron for $3.75 an hour. I applied at Home Depot while shopping there. I got a 40-cent-an-hour raise and started the next day. I moved on to the paint department, my all-time personal favorite, because they made every cashier adopt a department to learn about the rest of the store. When I managed a plumbing department, my mentor held my hand when he answered customer's technical questions so I couldn't leave. I don't think of this as work. I just like interacting with people.

You got your MBA while at Home Depot but majored in philosophy for your bachelor's degree. Why?

I just love to read, learn and think through complex things. It helped me answer a lot of life's questions. I finish two books a week, mostly nonfiction. Most recently it was Malcolm Gladwell's The Outliers, Lee Gruenfeld's The Expert and Curtis Sittenfeld's The American Wife. Oh, and FDR.

Home Depot has made a profit center and art form of being prepared for hurricane season. Didn't you manage a store in south Miami after it was flattened by Hurricane Andrew?

Yes, it really made me understand how much a Home Depot becomes a vital community hub, a lifeline in times of need. After the storm, we took care of any employee's problem, so they didn't have to worry about their home, money or loans, or family issues — anything that could keep them away from work. We set up shop in the parking lot with bricks, building materials and mobile cash registers. There were many nights I didn't go home. When you see that sort of devastation and look in the faces of customers whose dire needs you can fulfill, you just have to be there for them.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

share your opinions

Your letters to the Business News department will return next week. If you wish to submit a letter, use one of these methods.

MAIL: Business News Letters, P.O. Box 1121,

St. Petersburg, FL 33731

FAX: (727) 893-8939

E-MAIL: biznews@

tampabay.com (Use the word "Letter" as the subject.)

WEB: www.tampabay.com/letters (Choose "Business")

Home Depot southern president helps chain rebuild its brand 04/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24

    Retail

    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights

    Business

    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.

    Yet.

    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]