How DIY retail is building momentum
As consumers were consigned to their homes for much of last year, the attention of those in good health and who could afford it turned to renovations, decorations, and kitting out their properties.
Consumers took advantage of DIY retail’s government-mandated “essential” status, to feather nests, make homes remote-working friendly, and enhance outside space.
An annual sales rise of 7.2% prompted Thierry Garnier, CEO of the Screwfix and B&Q owner Kingfisher, to say his company was “coming out of the Covid crisis as a stronger business”. He talked up “an improved competitive position in all key markets, strong new customer growth and a step-change in digital adoption”.[i]
Wickes' like-for-like core DIY revenues grew by 19.3% year on year in 2020,[ii] Homebase is opening stores again after pandemic-fuelled sales and new ownership continues the business’s turnaround,[iii] and Dobbies’ like for like sales rose by 6% over 12 months.[iv]
This paints a picture of a sector in rude health – certainly, when comparing the situation to the several years of uncertainty and industry restructure leading up to 2020. But how’s is it building on that momentum?
Their typical location on retail parks up and down the country helped DIY and building materials companies in the pandemic, as these sites saw traffic levels fall at a slower rate than urban centres and shopping malls.[v]
That has sparked some businesses to experiment, with Toolstation considering the potential of operating more click & collect sites in retail parks.[vi] I think there will be more of this because it ticks the boxes of convenience and safe shopping, from a consumer perspective.
Operators in this sector are also looking to get closer to where their customers live. Consumers directing more of their spend locally has been a feature of the pandemic, and this trend should stick due to greater levels of homeworking.
B&Q and Dobbies have both opened smaller format high street stores, with a digital edge to them. They provide convenient click & collect sites and encourage more ad hoc spend on big ticket items from passers-by.
The rise of online is perhaps the biggest story though. Like wider retail, the DIY sector had seen e-commerce edge up, but it could never have imagined the pandemic-induced digital turbocharge.
Online retail trade body IMRG reported online garden retail sales growth of 226% in 2020. For home & garden online sales combined, online sales jumped by 74%.[vii]
This uplift is reflected in the individual retailers’ trading reports and in chats I have had with the sector. It’s full steam ahead within the category to get houses in order digitally, so they don’t disappoint customers and so they can nail down the relevant internal systems.
What are the new nuts and bolts of retail?
There’s no getting away from it that changes in the way the sector looks and operates calls for retailers to establish different partnerships and solutions to before.
I know from sitting alongside B&Q’s director of business development, Chris Bargate, during a recent BRC webinar that this particular retailer is in experimental mode – trialling and planning fresh collaborations that support the new marketplace.
Homebase is connecting the dots between online and physical shopping with QR codes at the shelf edge of its new Cheltenham store, allowing shoppers to seek additional product information on their own devices. There are plenty of other examples I could give – but what it shows is an industry taking control of the digital evolution and getting to grips with what customers want by offering suitable services.
Outside of DIY retail, the focus on digitally-enabled store experiences and e-commerce growth is also strong. GlobalData’s 'Multichannel Retail and COVID-19' report,[viii] released in the final quarter of 2020, shows there was rapid adoption and growth in buy online, pick up in-store services across the industry last year.
Click & collect retail sales soared. When UK consumers were asked which of the following they will do more of once shopping returns to normal, 54% said collect online orders in stores and 43% said collect online orders from the curbside or outside shops.
Meanwhile, 53% said they’d return items bought online to a store, highlighting how the pandemic has fostered a stronger relationship between the physical and the digital aspects of retail.
Marks & Spencer, Currys PC World, and Sainsbury’s Argos all view this online-to-store link as crucial for their future success as modern retailers.
However, there is plenty more retailers of all types could be doing to take advantage of this phenomenon.
In the US, our partner, Lowe’s has really seen the benefits of putting our lockers in its stores.
After trialling them, the DIY chain rolled them out to 1,700 stores across North America, allowing customers to seamlessly – and, crucially in a pandemic, safely – pick up digital orders at their chosen store at a suitable time.
Lockers provide certainty and additional choice for the shopper, while also giving the retailer a chance to be omnichannel. The lockers can be sponsored too.
From the conversations we’re having with the UK DIY sector, it’s clear businesses understand the operational benefits of lockers and the convenience and flexibility they provide consumers. The rise in click & collect, in particular, calls for additional and creative ways to serve shoppers.
Just like their customer base, DIY retailers know they need the right kit to undertake a renovation project. We think we have the tools to help with that job.
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