ATLANTA – The Home Depot Inc. is focusing all its efforts on improving its core retail segment now that the uncertainty of what to do with its wholesale distribution business is behind it. But the company signaled anew Tuesday that the rest of this year and part of 2008 will be challenging. The world’s largest home improvement store chain lowered its earnings expectations for fiscal 2007, citing further weakness in the housing market and the sale of its HD Supply unit. At the same time, the Atlanta-based company said it was launching a tender offer for 250 million shares of its common stock at a price range of $39 to $44 per share as part of a larger program to buy back up to $22.5 billion of its stock. Home Depot shares rose 2 cents to $40.25 at the close of trading. The company said it now expects total retail sales to be down 1 percent to 2 percent for the year and sales at stores open at least a year to be down in the mid-single digit range. “We look at the overall market and say there’s still correction that lies ahead of us,” Chief Executive Frank Blake, referring to the housing market, told investors hours after Home Depot gave the lowered guidance. “But again, we’re pretty far along in the correction process.” At the same time, Blake said Home Depot sees “continued headwinds through 2007 and probably some into 2008 as well.” The market aside, Blake said Home Depot still faces operational challenges. He noted Home Depot has been underperforming compared with others in its market. He said Home Depot is working to improve customer service, in part by giving employees financial incentives for doing good work. Home Depot’s revised fiscal 2007 earnings per share targets reflect 52 weeks and do not include the impact of the 53rd week. The company will have 53 weeks of operating results in its fiscal 2007 financial results. Home Depot projects that the 53rd week will add approximately 3 cents to its consolidated earnings per share guidance for fiscal 2007. The company said its updated earnings per share guidance does not include the gain on the sale of HD Supply. Meanwhile, the tender offer launched Tuesday is scheduled to expire on Aug. 16. Last month, the company announced a stock repurchase program in which its board had authorized the company to buy back up to $22.5 billion of Home Depot stock. The tender offer is part of that plan.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “We want to do better, we want to go faster,” Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome said in an interview. “But we are making progress. I think the public, as they shop in our stores, will see that.” Home Depot said it now expects its earnings per share to decline by 15 percent to 18 percent for fiscal 2007. In May, the company had projected an earnings per share decline of 9 percent for the year. The earlier guidance included an estimated 18 cents of earnings per share contribution from the company’s HD Supply unit for the last six months of the fiscal year. Last month, Home Depot said it was selling the unit to a group of private equity firms for $10.3 billion. Home Depot said Tuesday it was updating its guidance to reflect the unit as a discontinued operation. Market factors are also hurting Home Depot, the company said in its announcement Tuesday.