DIY Is Back in a Big Way, With a Few New Spins

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Consumers are still trapped at home and they’re picking up some new hobbies. The DIY market is booming, and Euromonitor predicts that DIY sales will grow by 6.1 percent globally in the new year. However, when researching the category, one quickly notices an interesting discrepancy: there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes DIY. I was amused to see Statista break DIY sales down into three sectors –– home centers, lumberyards and hardware stores –– when that’s obviously not the full extent of the vertical.

How We Define “DIY”

DIY is an umbrella term that can refer to a wide range of products created to be used at home. It references products that run the gamut, from craft beer brewing kits, crochet needles and press-on nails to self-install shelving units. The growth of the DIY sector during lockdown shouldn’t come as a surprise, but interestingly, growth varied by country. In fact, some of the countries that were the most effective at eliminating regional virus spread, such as Australia, experienced the most drastic DIY growth. Euromonitor International reports that 2020 DIY sales increased by 8.1 percent in Australia, 4.1 percent in the Netherlands, 1.8 percent in South Korea, and just 1 percent in the U.S.

[callout]DIY has been a growing category since hipsters hit the scene in the early aughts, but it is expected to jump from $820 billion in 2018 to $1.1 trillion in 2025.[/callout]

Why is the U.S. such a laggard? Due to the economic crisis, American consumers simply have less to spend. But this doesn’t mean that U.S. consumers aren’t interested in DIY projects, especially home renovation. NPD Group recently found that one in ten consumers have taken on home projects they would have hired a professional for before the pandemic: cleaning, landscaping, maintenance, repairs, and remodeling. But beautification projects won’t stop once the vaccine is widely distributed –– over 40 percent of consumers have post-pandemic DIY home improvement plans.

Urban Flight Inspires Home Renovation

There’s little as unappealing as paying big bucks to rent an urban apartment during a pandemic when you can’t enjoy any of the perks of city living. In most urban areas, theaters, bars, restaurants and shopping centers are still closed or at minimum capacity. Densely populated areas like New York and L.A. are hotbeds for pathogen spread, and around 65 percent of early coronavirus cases took place in dense cities. Unsurprisingly, we’re seeing an exodus from city to suburb, as open land and creature comforts take precedence over access to trendy restaurants/events –– most of which are on hold indefinitely.

The urban flight phenomenon carries big implications for the home renovation sector. A recent Wells Fargo study found that more than 88 percent of consumers plan to increase retail spending on items including appliances and electronics. Home improvement was listed as the second biggest retail category spend, and retailers like Home Depot and Lowes have been reaping the benefits.

The Auto Parts Boom

As consumers leave the city, there are typically fewer public transportation options and they’re suddenly driving longer distances. Used car sales were already two times the size of the overall auto market before the pandemic. And used cars are poised to become even more popular in the coming years, as extended factory lockdowns and plummeting consumer confidence ravage traditional auto sales. CNBC recently shared data from consulting firm AlixPartners, which found that the sales market for new cars will drop by around 3.5 million vehicles year over year. Used car sales in the U.S., on the other hand, are estimated at 41 million units annually and they’re on the rise.

Auto parts manufacturers are also looking at a big fat boost as a result of halted auto production and demand for new parts for used vehicles. Case in point: AutoZone. The Motley Fool reports that AutoZone\’s net sales grew by 14 percent YoY to $4.5 billion. The company opened 49 new domestic stores this year while nonessential retailers crumbled, bringing its total store count to 6,549.

Dream of Self Beautification

Properties and cars aren’t the only things consumers have wanted to spruce up during the pandemic. Salon shutdowns have driven the at-home beauty market to new heights, as traditional cosmetics sales ––lipstick, foundation, eyeshadow, etc. –– are down by more than 70 percent. Last year wasn’t all bad for cosmetics retailers, though. Statista found that, while color cosmetics took a dip, all beauty products as a whole grew by 7 percent, skincare grew by 8 percent and “other” cosmetic sales grew by 9 percent.

Beauty brands have had to quickly pivot from corrective and color cosmetics into growing categories, such as at-home nail kits, hair dye and skincare products. With massage therapists and day spas on lockdown, self-pampering is also on the rise. There’s been an 86 percent sales increase in self-massaging appliances since Covid. At-home pet grooming product sales are also skyrocketing ­­–– think dog shampoo, conditioner, nail trimming kits, perfume, etc. ­­–– as more consumers resort to beautifying themselves and their fur babies at home.

DIY 2021

It’s the Wild West out there, so it comes as no surprise that consumers want to stay in their dens and regroup. DIY has been a growing category since hipsters hit the scene in the early aughts, but it is expected to jump from $820 billion in 2018 to $1.1 trillion in 2025. While nobody can predict what will happen next (murder hornets, snake-infested seafoam, and new strains of Covid…oh my!) the fact remains that the weirder things get, the more consumers will want to take control of the things around them. Whether it’s giving old Fido a much-needed oatmeal bath or repainting their garage interior, consumers are finding hope and saving their hard-earned cash by doing things themselves.

Likewise, non-DIY retailers can find hope and a path to sustained relevance in offering products that help customers reign their domain. It might sound like a stretch for conventional retailers but think creatively to serve up the DIY trend. One idea is to source relevant DIY inventory adjacent to existing offerings to appeal to craftsy customers. For example, if you sell a lot of knitwear, you could also sell needles, homespun yarn and instructions in-store and stream live how-to videos online. Display ingredients for home-concocted bath products with recipes, Epsom salts, dried flowers, and essential oils. Sell an on-brand crystal, bead, and leather kit so customers to create their own accessories. Hold a contest for the best customer design and then print the winner onto a small batch of t-shirts. Bundle ingredients for customers to make your famous candle fragrances at home. The idea is to engage the customer with creative projects to make yourself surprising and relevant to your customers.

Let’s face it, conventional retail is an endangered species. Tap into unconventional thinking to inspire customers. The DIY trend can help retailers connect with new customers by meeting them exactly where they are to provide them with affordable passion projects to sustain them in challenging times.

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