Top Findings of 2020: HIRI's Insights on the Home Improvement Industry

HIRI's Insights on the Home Improvement Industry 

2020 has been a challenging year across all industries, and home improvement has been no exception. With so many homeowners at home, the demand for home improvement products and services exploded, while the supply chain struggled to keep up with that demand.

Let’s look at the top findings from HIRI’s home improvement industry research this year. 

2020 Was the Year of the DIY Project

If you look at internet search trends, “paint” reached its all-time search high in April of 2020.  

Homeowners spent more time on DIY projects this year than in the last few years, as the idea of improving a living, work or play space was top-of-mind for many homeowners this year. It makes sense, with everyone staying in their “pods” and home-basing (the trend of staying at home instead of going out). Many homeowners also found the need to create an office space, due to many employees being forced by circumstance to work from home this year. 

Data from consumer purchases indicate a large increase in DIY project activity, thanks to stay-at-home orders and home-basing trends. 

At HIRI’s Summit this year, we explored the trend in homeowner purchases and DIY projects in 2020, and Nick with Trusted Media helped attendees understand this activity. According to research from Trusted Media, 85% of their “Inner Circle” survey respondents said their home was their number one investment. 

If they’re staying home more frequently and are spending money on something, it is likely on a remodeling project. And that’s because many homeowners are thinking ahead, beyond the pandemic. 

“It’s something they’re improving and can hold onto, but hopefully someday cash out on to do something else,” Nick explains. 

Shopping Channels Have Changed

People are investing in their homes, and, for the same reason they are staying home in the first place, they are mostly spending that money online. According to HIRI’s retail study, there’s been a big surge of online purchases and curbside pickup this year. 

HIRI’s Retail Selector Study asked 2,000 homeowners about their purchasing decisions in the last few months. Homeowners have had to navigate COVID restrictions when shopping for any of their DIY projects. 

The number of in-store purchases are down by 20% from 2018 data, but the number of online and curbside pickup purchases went up in 2020. 

In fact, 21% of homeowners in HIRI’s survey bought their products online. 

Housing Market Numbers Are on the Rise

HIRI’s Recent Home Buyer Study revealed some interesting insights around home buying this year. “I think this is a really important thing to look at right now,” explains Grant Farnsworth. 

The housing market has certainly been something to watch this year:

  • The majority of recent home buyers (60%) purchased their home in 2020 (out of the last twelve months). 

  • Lower home mortgage interest rates this year helped to motivate many purchase decisions.

  • Surprisingly, COVID wasn’t a deterrent for many home-buyers. In fact, 66% of recent home buyers noted that the pandemic had no impact on their decision to buy a home. 

It’s also noteworthy that 21% of HIRI’s survey respondents said they planned to buy or sell their home in the next 12 months. “We’ve seen this almost double from prior surveys,” says Grant.

COVID Takes a Toll on the Pro Market

Industry research shows that COVID has affected professional contractors and other home improvement businesses a bit differently than homeowners this year. 

While there’s been a rebound in the sales of home improvement materials and supplies, those products are likely going towards the DIY projects that homeowners have taken on while home-basing. Homeowners preferred to do most of their projects themselves, instead of letting a professional inside their home.

However, even for professionals with a full docket, there were complications. 

Most professionals saw issues crop up in the supply chain, as manufacturers and dealers struggled to get materials and parts from overseas. Professionals were also forced to shop for many products online because of COVID restrictions. Supplies were often low because of delays in the industry and demand in the home improvement market. 

While a gradual reopening of the economy was under way, rising caseloads throughout the U.S. have caused many professionals to slow down the pace of recovery in their business. And project requests have been lower than usual, since many homeowners have been tackling their own bathroom remodels or paint jobs. 

But there’s a bright side: DIYers are much less likely to tackle jobs like HVAC maintenance or an electric repair project. They’ll call a skilled professional instead. And the trends of home-basing and staycation-ing aren’t going anywhere. With homeowners spending more time at home now, they’ll need help maintaining or repairing those spaces. 

How Retailers and Home Improvement Companies Can Adapt

If there’s one guarantee in the home improvement sector, it’s that things will always change. But home improvement companies can plan on a few trends to stick around: 

  1. Home-basing isn’t going anywhere, and many homeowners want long-term solutions so that they can stay in their homes longer. 

  2. That means they’ll want high-quality products and ideas for maintaining their homes. Homeowners will want a return on this important investment when it eventually comes time for them to sell.

  3. In-store purchase numbers are down from 2018: Research indicates purchases have dropped by 20%. Online research and shopping, however, is on the rise. 

These trends are all significant, and home improvement companies that want to help their customers should take note. 

Brands can adapt to their customers’ needs by leveraging their website: An online presence means you can promote products that help these homeowners and professionals complete their projects. Offer services to help them get the job done, or share inspirational photos and installation videos to give them resources for their projects. 

Hope for the Industry Lies Ahead

There are still uncertainties around the pandemic and its consequences on the home improvement industry. But many are looking ahead with optimism and working to rebuild from the losses experienced this year. 

For home improvement retailers and organizations who want to stay on top of trends and prepared for what lies ahead in 2021, HIRI offers a membership with access to over $850,000 worth of industry data and professional insights. 

Or you can take a look at some of our other reports on home improvement research here.
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