In recent months, numerous reports and commentators have explored the ailing DIY market with the headline news concerning the announcement from Homebase last October that it was to significantly scale back its operations and refocus as a “smaller, but stronger” business.
The retailer revealed plans to close 25% of its 300+ stores by 2019 and even publicly conceded: “Although economic indicators have more recently improved, several structural factors continue to affect home improvement retailing including an excess of retail space and the rise of a generation less skilled in DIY projects.”
Whilst the UK DIY sector has been in steady decline for a decade or more, it is still estimated to be worth in excess of a not-to-be sniffed at £7billion. So without wanting to greatly exaggerate the reports of its demise, it should also be said that — somewhat counter intuitively — the activities of DIYers are actually something of an opinion-splitter in the trade.
Whilst on the one hand, every piece of DIY work carried out is potentially taking away a business opportunity for a qualified tradesperson — and taking sales away from the merchant sector — on the other, botched DIY jobs can prove to be a valuable source of income for those prepared to undertake remedial projects.
Indeed, recent research from Lloyds Bank suggests that 1 in 10 homeowners have had large scale DIY projects go wrong — with the average cost of repairing the damage at a rather substantial £3,200. It would seem that a householder biting off more than they can chew in the home improvement department does not necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Whether this diminishing willingness on the part of the public to ‘have a go’ is due to a lack of time or faith in their own capabilities, the dawning realisation is that it will be far better to employ a professional tradesperson with the skills to get the job. And if a consumer’s decision-making process is no longer “me or a professional?” but rather “which professional?” then the long-term result is a positive one for qualified tradesmen and their supply chain partners alike.
Steve Horrocks, Technical Director at installer certification body Stroma, summed up the situation rather succinctly. He said: “The reduction in DIY skills reflects the changing nature of modern society. It is a skills gap which can readily be filled by the wealth of competent and qualified installers who are active in the industry. Stroma’s installer membership numbers have been growing throughout the year and we have an extremely positive outlook for 2015. I’d urge all installers to make sure they’re certified with a Government approved certification provider to take advantage of the increasing consumer demand and market their services to those customers.”
As we emerge from a post-recessionary period of what might generously be described as economic stagnation, the hope is that disposable income may once again become a reality — and one that will encourage UK consumers to invest in the services of those with the experience, know-how and qualifications to offer a top notch service. And who source their materials from knowledgeable, well-stocked professional merchant outlets.