In 2020 and 2021, demand for Home Improvement and Garden (HIG) products saw significant growth. It is widely accepted that the pandemic and specifically lockdown was an important stimulus for this sector.
Numerous reasons have been suggested for this growth, including:
- Consumers were unable to take the number of holidays they would normally have budgeted for, and availability of new and second-hand cars was greatly reduced. Traditionally, these areas of spend are big competitors to home improvements and gardening investments.
- Many consumers were spending significantly more time at home, not just because of limits on leisure travel, but also the millions of people who were asked to work from home for all or part of their normal hours. All that extra time made us all more aware of the need for improvements, the time to make them and the time to enjoy the benefits.
- Within a few months of the first national lockdown, there were numerous media stories about shortages of construction products and the associated rise in prices. The increase in shipping costs for imported goods in 2021 further inflated HIG costs and will have persuaded some home owners to accelerate their plans before they became unaffordable.
- Similarly for projects requiring skilled tradespeople, demand built so quickly, that stories of builders, landscapers, electricians etc. being fully booked for months in advance will have encouraged some customers to commit to projects.
- Lastly, but by no means least is the “keeping up with the neighbours” factor!
As life returns to something more like pre-pandemic norms, the picture is potentially confusing for the HIG sector. The vacation and wider leisure markets are reported to be recovering, with growth in spend on areas like camping and caravanning; restaurants and catering, sports and visitor attractions. However, while we might have expected this to dampen demand for the larger HIG projects, early indications are that bathroom and kitchen refurbishment and replacement sales are as busy as during 2020 and 2021.
However, some of the DIY, tools retailers and home products stores are reporting a slow down in sales and some have experienced declines, not just in the first quarter of 2022, but also over the crucial Easter holiday period.
While this may appear contradictory, the reality is that both the pandemic and the more recent cost of living increases affect people in different ways. When we look at the population in terms of how they have been financially impacted by these two events, it is easier to explain why we might be seeing these spend changes at a national level.
For some consumers, Covid caused them to work from home totally or in part reducing their commuting costs, while their income was unaffected. The limits on leisure spending saved them more money and rises in property value make it easier for them to borrow and spend. The media has regularly carried stories in recent months of house value increasing more in a year than the owners are earning. These consumers can afford to take up some of their old leisure activities and still have money left for home and garden improvements, extensions and even moving house.
However, for many people, the pandemic cost them their job or at least reduced their hours and earnings. Increased energy costs, food prices and National Insurance contributions have hit their household budgets hard and they are having to make tough spending choices. With forecasters predicting that the cost of living situation is likely to get worse before it improves, confidence is also being undermined. For these people the fact that Home and Garden projects are rarely essential or urgent makes them a relatively easy target for cost saving.
For HIG retailers, this analysis seems to present some challenges, but in reality, like every business, it is a question of understanding the different customer segments or personas and ensuring ranging, pricing and promotion is optimised for their individual needs. For example, it is highly likely that some purchasing will switch from premium brands to value alternatives. Retailers that successfully position themselves as offering best value are likely to see market share benefits.
Winster has a long-established reputation for working closely with HIG customers to optimise their hose and accessories products. With a wide range of high quality unbranded products, Winster can provide all the critical lines required to offer a good value alternative to or replacement for the premium brands.