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The Home Depot-Trane Alliance: What's it to You?

May 11, 2000
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So Home Depot will now be selling Trane equipment to consumers through their Apex Supply Co. connection (see page 1, The News, May 1, 2000). Customer sales leads will be generated at the Home Depot level, passed along to Apex Supply (which Home Depot owns), then passed along once more to authorized Trane dealers for professional installation.

Think about it for a moment. The presence of a popular and well-known national “big box” company in local hvac communities is bound to have some type of impact on other businesses, namely contractors, in the area. And let’s not forget about the distributors who have already seen their slice of the pie trimmed by manufacturer buyouts and dot-com vendors.

The real question is, what type of impact will this new partnership have on your business?

As soon as the news got to us at The News, I called a few contractors to get their feelings. Their reactions, I thought, were predictable: There was no consensus of opinion.

Some thought it wouldn’t be good for the trade because it may lead to poor workmanship by installers. Others said it would be good for competition and that Trane dealers would be the ones who would have to look in the rear view mirror. Others really didn’t care too much.

I was happy to see that the respondents didn’t use the Home Depot name as an excuse. They weren’t upset that a nationally recognized name was now competing for their customers. And that’s a good thing.

It shows that hvacr contractors are confident in their own workmanship and customer service and that outwardly, they show no signs of concern about losing market share. I think that speaks volumes about our industry’s “state of affairs.”

If you recall, there was some uproar when the consolidation movement inched its way into the hvacr trade. There was a variety of reasons why independent contractors didn’t like seeing their competitors bought out by Wall Street power brokers.

There’s no need to rehash the reasons here, except to note that one reason for concern was not the fear of losing customers to a better-run, national organization. The independents said they welcomed the competition and thought it would raise the bar for service and professionalism. I think they were right.

And that’s why I think the Home Depot-Trane marriage is a good thing for our trade; it will shed new light on the hvacr industry in a positive way. It may raise the bar a few notches, but that will be good for contractors, too.

I like to think of this scenario: This new alliance can be likened to watching a young body builder walking down the beach in his form-fitting tank top and Speedo swim trunks that barely cover the essentials. All of the older men on the beach of slightly inferior stature (myself included) see this young stud and think we can match him stride for stride.

So we inhale, shifting our sagging midsection into an unnatural position alongside our lungs, pat down our unruly hair (as if it would help), and walk around, seeing if we are getting noticed by any of the young females. (Our wives and girlfriends are already laughing uncontrollably in the sand.)

We want to make a better impression and woo more attention from the opposite sex. Aren’t we doing a similar thing in our everyday business? But in this case, we are wooing a new generation of educated consumers.

The hvacr trade just inhaled and combed its hair, and is now ready to work alongside Home Depot and Trane. Because we all win in this scenario — win customers, that is.

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