ATLANTA - Home Depot, the largest retailer of home improvement goods, has opened about 75 tool rental centers within its nationwide chain of stores this year and plans to add 30 more by the end of January, giving it 150 rental outlets in the United States and Canada.

Home Depot's tool rental effort is strongest in Georgia and Tennessee - where the program originated in 1995 - as well as in the Los Angeles and Toronto markets, according to Tom McCormick, director of tool rentals for the company.

About 60 percent to 70 percent of the rental departments were created in existing stores, McCormick said, but future openings are expected to favor new stores, where the standard 2,000-square-foot rental space can be incorporated into the building design.

Though Home Depot does not break out rental revenue, vice president of finance Marshall Day told analysts in a conference call last month that tool rentals were strong. RER sources estimate that the busiest locations have surpassed $1 million in annual volume.

Based here, Home Depot opened 32 stores during the quarter and now operates 878 locations, including a second Villager's Hardware store that opened last month in New Jersey. The Villager's launch, aimed at consumers seeking convenience and smaller-ticket items, will compete with traditional hardware stores.