Long-term consumer forecast shows rays of light

According to The British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA)’s latest weekly Covid-19 financial update for members, the forecast for growth in DIY and garden expenditure for 2020 overall has again fallen back despite the impact of gradual store re-openings. Longer term the reawakening in consumer interest in home improvement and garden gives grounds for hope in a brighter future for the sector however, but how and where purchases take place may well have shifted form the pre-Covid norm.

The predicted figure for percentage growth at the end of May is now minus 14.1% – from £11.4 bn to £9.8 bn compared to 2019. This is a slight deepening of the forecast downturn, although the sector remains protected from the worst of the negative impact compared to other areas of retail. The latest figures also show the percentage increase in online sales in DIY and garden rising again following a slight drop as bricks and mortar stores started to reopen. The figures begin to suggest that some consumers’ preferences for where and how they shop may have changed permanently.

During the lockdown so far, 59.8% of consumers have been inspired to refresh their homes, largely due to the extra time available. The top four rooms consumers have redecorated have been the living room, kitchen, master bedroom and bathroom, but the biggest area of consumer purchase has been in garden products. A third of consumers say they are looking forward to doing even more home and garden shopping after lockdown.

Online shopping is again rising among both DIY and garden shoppers – 15.1% more online spend on gardening; 13.3% more online spend on DIY. DIY retailers experienced inflated demand online, with B&Q and Wickes implementing virtual queuing systems at first to cope with this.

BHETA’s marketing manager, Steve Richardson commented, “BHETA is committed to providing financial updates as frequently as new data is available; and this is vital as the picture is changing rapidly. We did see a slight bounce in the figures as B&Q and Homebase reopened, but I think we are now seeing the beginnings of the ‘new normal’.

“As with every non-food sector of retail, the pandemic has affected DIY and garden adversely overall, but longer term there are positives and it is vital that the industry responds to them. Anecdotally, some of BHETA’s DIY and garden members have seen sales remain very strong over the last couple of months, and much has depended on the individual supplier’s ability to respond in terms of manufacture, logistics and routes to market. We have certainly seen a rediscovery of DIY and gardening which goes beyond the core consumer profile; and we have seen a shift towards online. Thanks to GlobalData’s excellent support in supplying the information, we believe these trends will outlast lockdown restrictions.

“At BHETA’s webinar with the CBI, the point was made that even with bricks and mortar outlets reopening, not all consumers will immediately feel confident in traditional outlets – and that this will undoubtedly continue a positive trend for online – and for those smaller independents able to embrace social distancing successfully. It’s for this reason that BHETA is focussing heavily on online selling – whether directly or via existing retail and marketplace platforms – in its current series of webinars.”