HIRI Contractor Channel Hero

Contractors’ Top Channels for Home Improvement Purchases

Nov 17, 2022

Dis­sect­ing pat­terns in con­sumer behav­ior can be tedious. There are an infi­nite num­ber of fac­tors that affect how a cus­tomer makes deci­sions dur­ing his or her pur­chas­ing jour­ney. Nar­row­ing down the right prod­uct, brand and even shop­ping loca­tion all depend on the customer’s per­son­al pref­er­ence. But do pro­fes­sion­al con­trac­tors fol­low a sim­pler cus­tomer journey? 

To explore this ques­tion, the Home Improve­ment Research Insti­tute (HIRI) stud­ied con­trac­tors’ pre­ferred chan­nels for home improve­ment pur­chas­es. Data from over 500 remod­el­ers and gen­er­al con­trac­tors helps shed light on where home improve­ment pro­fes­sion­als shop most often, the biggest incen­tives for their pre­ferred chan­nel and the prod­ucts that are in the high­est demand. 

Take a look:

Purchase Channel Spending

The great­est per­cent­age of spend­ing from respon­dents in the last three months occurred at retail locations:

  • Retail­er: 69%
  • Man­u­fac­tur­er: 11%
  • Spe­cial­ty deal­er: 11%
  • Lum­ber and build­ing mate­r­i­al deal­er: 8%
  • Some­where else: 1%

Of the pur­chas­es from retail­ers, home cen­ters account­ed for the great­est spend:

  • Home cen­ters: 70%
  • Hard­ware stores: 13%
  • Spe­cial­ty stores: 9%
  • Online-only retail­ers: 6%
  • Some­where else: 2%

Channel Preference

What’s the draw toward retail­ers? HIRI dug fur­ther to find out why home improve­ment pros pre­fer one chan­nel over another.


  • Best selection/​always have what I need: 37%
  • Convenient/​easier: 18%
  • Bet­ter pric­ing: 18%
  • Closer/​better loca­tion: 13%
  • Faster/​same day: 9%
  • Oth­er: 5%


  • Bet­ter pric­ing: 60%
  • Convenient/​easier: 15%
  • Best qual­i­ty: 10%
  • Bet­ter cus­tomer service/​knowledgeable employ­ees: 10%
  • Oth­er: 5%

Specialty Dealer/​Pro Dealer:

  • Best selection/​always have what I need: 33%
  • Bet­ter pric­ing: 18%
  • Bet­ter cus­tomer service/​knowledgeable employ­ees: 18%
  • Best qual­i­ty: 15%
  • It’s the store I’m most famil­iar with: 11%
  • Oth­er: 5%

LBM Dealer:

  • Best selection/​always have what I need: 28%
  • Bet­ter pric­ing: 24%
  • Best qual­i­ty: 21%
  • Bet­ter cus­tomer service/​knowledgeable employ­ees: 14%
  • Deliv­ery: 10%
  • Oth­er: 3%

Online vs. In-Store

Clear­ly, pro­fes­sion­al con­trac­tors have ample rea­sons they may pre­fer one shop­ping chan­nel over anoth­er. But one major chan­nel is not list­ed above:

Online shopping.

As the inter­net becomes a more ubiq­ui­tous mar­ket­ing and sales tool, online store­fronts are more read­i­ly acces­si­ble for home improve­ment prod­uct seek­ers to scope out their needs. How­ev­er, accord­ing to HIRI data, a major­i­ty of pros (90%) still pre­fer to pur­chase prod­ucts in-store. This lines up with the per­cent­age of in-store pur­chas­es (82%) made by respon­dents in the last three months.

Respon­dents were also asked whether they think online shop­ping is bet­ter or worse than one year ago. While most (52%) thought the expe­ri­ence is the same, some had rea­sons that it seems bet­ter or worse:

Purchasing online is better than one year ago because:

  • There are more choic­es: 21%
  • It is eas­i­er: 15%
  • There is faster ship­ping: 15%

Purchasing online is worse than one year ago because:

  • There is a longer wait time for prod­ucts: 23%
  • It is hard­er to find prod­ucts: 23%
  • It is more expen­sive: 21%

Most Purchased Products

Regard­less of chan­nel, respon­dents pro­vid­ed details on which prod­uct cat­e­gories they pur­chase from most often. Here are the top seven:

  • Build­ing mate­ri­als: 20%
  • Lum­ber, treat­ed lum­ber and ply­wood: 16%
  • Paint and paint sup­plies: 14%
  • Pow­er tools: 9%
  • Hard­ware: 7%
  • Kitchen and bath remod­el­ing prod­ucts: 6%
  • Plumb­ing sup­plies: 6%


Con­trac­tors have exist­ing per­cep­tions about the chan­nels they use to shop. If your busi­ness oper­ates in one of these chan­nels to sell prod­ucts, make sure your cus­tomers are get­ting the expe­ri­ence they expect. You may also con­sid­er expand­ing with a retail part­ner­ship, or sim­ply use sales and mar­ket­ing tech­niques to empha­size the advan­tages of your cur­rent channels.

For even more insights into con­trac­tor pur­chas­ing jour­neys, join HIRI as a mem­ber and get access to $1 mil­lion worth of home improve­ment indus­try research.

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