Over the years I've spent a lot of time in hardware stores, lumber yards and now the latest: Home Improvement Centers. A quick take on my personal opinions about them may be in order at this point.
I like Lowe's. At first I thought that the difference between Lowe's and Home Depot was the colors. I find the blue soothing and the orange a bit irritating. But, given the cumulative months of my life that I have spent in these places, I've come to the conclusion that Lowe's is laid out in a more sensible manner. Their employees actually seem to know where stuff is and what it's for (haven't stumped them too many times), and the aisles are a little wider and less congested.
Given that the stuff you can buy at either of them is pretty much the same, and the prices are close, I choose to shop at Lowe's 90% of the time.
Of course we stop in at Home Depot from time to time to check the specials and make sure we're not missing anything.
National Home Center is third choice and I think that's a shame. I personally like the concept of National. It's really a lumber yard (and a pretty decent one at that) with good prices on lumber.
But for really simple stuff, it seems they are either out of or don't stock at least one thing on my list every time I go there. I've pretty much given up on trying to buy anything but lumber there.
Oh, they have a door shop on premises and can "pre-hang" virtually any door for you and that's a plus. I bought four doors from them recently and they did a great job on those.