PROGRAMS Home Depot Drives Competitive Advantage Through Localization By Patrycja Malinowska New York - The Home Depot is one of many large retailers who face challenges in knowing what each of their stores' shoppers want. How can the retailer take advantage of scale but also reap the benefits of localized assortment? "When I joined Home Depot in 1993, we were opening up a store every 48 hours," said Aaron Surasky, Home Depot's senior director of assortment planning and analysis. "Do you think we could possibly have had the same kind of localized assortment then as we had in the very first store in the suburbs of Atlanta in 1979? It would have been impossible. "Our challenge today - my passion - is, how do I take 1,975 stores and turn them into 1,975 neighborhood stores?" Surasky said during a presentation at the National Retail Federation's Retail's Big Show in January. "How do I go from growing sales by growing square feet to growing sales per square foot?" The Home Depot has been working to make its assortment as localized as possible by utilizing the help of new-age planning tools from Atlanta-based retail tech firm Predictix, while also retaining the human touch by listening to shoppers and employees. "Our chief merchandising officer has made this a cornerstone of what he's going to stand for at 32 y SHOPPER MARKETING MAY 2016 Home Depot stocks primarily electric water heaters in rural areas, while mostly gas ones in cities. Other areas see both types.