What is the impact of Covid-19 on the DIY industry?

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It’s been just over three weeks since the UK was put on lockdown to try and slow the coronavirus pandemic. Like me, many of you have probably exhausted all that Netflix has to offer, played every board game in the house and are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of the jigsaw puzzle you ordered two weeks ago.

Surprisingly, seeking out jobs to do around the house feels like it’s becoming an act of desperation, rather than a nuisance. Spending more time within our four walls means that we have the time to get started or even finish off those jobs that have previously been put on hold in favour of well, life?

So, what are the home improvements homeowners are comfortable undertaking themselves and who in the household volunteers their efforts? How are DIY products being purchased and how can home improvement retailers help consumers in their DIY pursuits? In February, before the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, we interviewed over 500 homebuyers as part of the Opinium Retail Tracker to explore the loved/loathed task of DIY in UK households and to examine how retailers can help homeowners with their DIY pursuits.

DIY, still a man’s world

According to homebuyers, DIY is still very much a male dominated task with 66% of males saying they do the majority of DIY jobs in their household versus 22% of females whose partners are more likely to take the lead (50%). Over a quarter (28%) of 18-24-year old homebuyers are still reliant on their family members to help them out with DIY job; a sign of a waiving interest in DIY amongst young people or just lack of confidence to be developed? We’ll find out over time.

On the other hand, 14% always hire a professional to complete DIY jobs, this incidence increasing with age from 4% of 25-34-year olds to 23% of over 65s. The main reasons those who don’t do DIY personally choose to avoid it are the possible danger surrounding using power tools (15%), not knowing where to start with a task (28%) and a lack of belief in their own DIY abilities (48%).

Half of homeowners said they’ve had a previous DIY project go wrong, 13% of which saying it took a long time to sort out and 6% saying it still hasn’t been resolved – quite understandable as to why many would be put off by a do-it-yourself approach.

Ability and purpose

However, luckily those who undertake the DIY in the household are rated or rate themselves reasonably well for their efforts. Homeowners rate their partners 7.4 on average out of 10 for their DIY abilities, whilst those who do the work themselves are slightly more modest with their rating, an average of 6.6. Enjoyment of DIY jobs is mixed with 53% overall claiming they do enjoy it, a quarter feeling indifferent (23%) whilst almost a fifth saying it’s not something they enjoy doing at all (18%).

The main reasons homebuyers who tend to keep DIY tasks within the household do so is primarily because it’s cheaper (65%), secondly the sense of accomplishment (37%) - particularly among older age groups – and because it provides more control over how the job is done (33%). However, 25-34-year olds – a key first time buyer group – hold a slightly different perspective with 25% claiming it to be something nice to do with their partner (versus 10% overall) and because it’s more sustainable / better for the environment (16% versus 8% overall).

In-store for purchase, online for advice

Overall, purchasing for DIY at home is still very much an in-store mission with 77% preferring to physically visit a store and browse the aisles over buying the items they need online (22%). With that in mind, it’s understandable that B&Q, with over 300 stores nationwide, was deemed the top retailer to visit for DIY projects in the home, followed by Homebase. Among online DIY shoppers, however, Amazon and eBay are particularly popular when buying tools and decorating items.

Despite shopping being predominantly done in-store, online is the main channel for homeowners when seeking out hints and tips for DIY. YouTube is the top source of information overall (predominantly amongst men and those aged 35-44) whilst Google comes in as the second most popular resource, most frequently used by younger age groups. Those aged 55+ are more likely to trust their own knowledge and tend not to seek out external help resources, likely due to experience just learning ‘on the job’ quite literally.

Optimising sales during the coronavirus outbreak

When we interviewed homebuyers over a month ago on this topic, 17% said they were planning on DIY over the Easter holidays with a further 19% saying they might use the holiday as a chance to improve areas of the home. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has turned normality on its head and we’re spending more time at home than ever before, but what does that mean for DIY activity?

Recently, advice from a number of medical societies urged to the public to stick to necessary household jobs and to avoid any activity which increases the risk of accidents to reduce any additional pressure on the NHS. In a recent study on flexible monthly spending during the coronavirus outbreak we asked consumers whether they’d be spending more or less on DIY / home improvements than usual.

Results were split (25% spending more, 24% spending less) a mixed result which undoubtedly takes into consideration the formal advice communicated to the public and the ease of the tasks in question.

But despite the advice, it’s inevitable with this extra time on our hands that repairs will need to be made and those jobs that have been put off for a while will be top of the to-do list. In-store, as we know, is the dominant shopping channel for the DIY industry. Whilst the bricks and mortar stores are closed for the foreseeable future, retailers will need to ensure they’re providing an ‘in-store experience’ on their websites as much as possible.

Making sure that online services are set up to provide advice and safety tips on tools and materials, offer flexible payment solutions and put in place reasonable delivery and return policies will be key to retailer success. Implementing such initiatives will give consumers the confidence to purchase via an unfamiliar method for this category in unfamiliar times.

If you’d like more information about the Opinium Retail Tracker, get in touch at research@opinium.com

Carolyn O’Meara, research manager at Opinium

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