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ATLANTA-Soft sales in the third quarter are not dissuading Home Depot from its store reinvestment program, executives said in its third quarter conference call. A slowing US economy and declining home prices resulted in a 5.1% comp-store sales decline.

Same-store sales also suffered from a comparison with a strong 2005, which was boosted by hurricane-related purchases. But the company will complete its plan to reset 100 bays in more than 100 stores by the end of the year, and accelerate the plan in 2007. The company will reset bays in 540 stores in total.

“We’ve stayed true to that plan, despite the economic headwinds that have come our way,” said Carol Tome, chief financial officer. “The Home Depot is using its stellar financial position to invest in the long term.”

The move has been successful so far. “We’re very pleased with the results,” said Craig Menear, senior vice president of merchandising. “Customer satisfaction scores are increasing faster than at our control stores.”

Sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2006 totaled $23.1 billion, an 11.3% increase from the third quarter of fiscal 2005, but total sales in the retail segment rose just 1.1%. Earnings were flat at $1.5 billion.

During the quarter, Home Depot opened 26 new stores, including one relocation, bringing its total store count to 2,104. Plans call for opening 100 new stores annually for the next three to five years, said Bob Nardelli, chairman, president and chief executive officer.

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