It's a marriage of giants, but are remodelers invited to the wedding? A “strategic alliance” between The Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement retailer, and AARP, the lobbying powerhouse for Americans age 50 and over, kicked off in December with the first of several initiatives targeting AARP members: 4% discounts on The Home Depot gift cards. Future initiatives include in-store “information resource centers” to support aging in place, an “AARP seal of approval” on senior-friendly products, and workshops on home modification and other topics targeting older homeowners.

For The Home Depot, whose sales topped $64 billion in 2003, the relationship assures more business from one of the country's largest and fastest-growing demographic groups. “By 2020 about 35% of the American population will be over age 50,” said Bob Nardelli, the company's president and CEO, in a public statement. “We want to develop meaningful and relevant relationships with a population that will soon grow to more than 118 million.”

What's less clear is how the alliance will affect remodelers. Some fear the discounts and programs could compel aging-in-place customers to dictate which products their contractors should buy or even to buy products themselves, eliminating the possibility of markups. The Home Depot carries more than 50,000 products, according to company spokesperson Karen Haggerty. She adds that there are no plans “at this point” to extend the discounts to contractors. Unless, of course, they're AARP members.