Home improvement remains key consumer driver says BHETA

Company: BHETA

Despite much early speculation in the first lockdown that the hike in home and garden sales would be a pandemic bubble, all statistics suggest that the UK consumer focus on DIY, grow your own, garden leisure, home entertaining and home baking remains strong beyond lockdown. 

Permanent shift towards enjoying private space

Pulling together details from its numerous sources of market data for its quarterly market report, the British Home Enhancement Association (BHETA) is seeing a long term and permanent shift in emphasis towards the importance of enjoying private space, both indoors and outdoors.

The latest statistics from GlobalData now project home improvement and enhancement overall as being up 6.6% year on year by the end of 2021.  Compared to pre-pandemic numbers, the equivalent is 8.9% with the market clearly having moved onwards and upwards.  Google Trends also demonstrates the reality of the shift with searches for ‘paint brush’ still up 50% on pre-pandemic levels and ‘baking tray’ up 41%.

Retail footfall down from peak but online is up

BHETA’s statistics also reveal that while the role of online in home and garden sales has declined from its pandemic peak, retail footfall in August was still only around 80% of pre-pandemic levels, and e-commerce sales have settled at around a third higher than in 2019.  It appears that it depends on where bricks and mortar outlets are located; and the nature of the product being purchased.  

September research shows a clear mindset shift in the UK post-Covid.  While there is growing consumer readiness to re-engage with the out-of-home economy, retail parks are performing better than the High Street and in town shopping centre. 

The stronger bricks and mortar categories are those where products have an aesthetic appeal, or are part of an assembly, or need the advice of an assisted purchase.  Meanwhile the step change in UK online retail sales volumes in May 2020 following the first lockdown has been largely maintained since shops re-opened.

Home and household goods at the forefront of retail growth

While overall retail volumes have slipped back since their surge in April and May after the Q1 lockdown, sales volume of home and household goods has remained the clear leader of UK retail spending since June 2020 and is projected to stay at the forefront of retail growth into 2022. 

The latest GB TGI consumer data (August 2021) reveals that 38% of adults (almost 20 million people) have undertaken home improvement projects (either DIY or ‘do it for me’) in the last 12 months. 

The most popular activity is painting, done personally by 72% of DIY-ers, followed by putting up blinds/curtains (40%) and installing shelves/storage units (37%).  The top tasks where professionals were paid are similar, and the spends involved exceed £2,000 on materials in a sizeable 15% of cases (three million people).  

A significant niche of younger people

Most home improvement and enhancement spenders are likely to be in the older age groups and be relatively affluent.  There is however a significant

niche of younger people including first time buyers and renters who have entered the market as never before.  The value of these consumers stretches beyond their income and life-stage and into their attitudes, with almost a third of them acknowledging just how aspirational they are, something which manifests itself in an active focus on improving their home and outside space.  

Home and garden a good investment

There are several motivations.  One is investment – with the home and garden seen as not only emotionally central, but as a good, rational and ‘profitable’ place to put any available cash.    Another is the importance of home-based entertaining.  A whopping 59% of home improvers cite the need to have something fit to show off as a key driver of their DIY enterprises. 

The third reason is the almost ‘over-familiarity’ with the home space that successive lockdowns combined with home working has caused.  Whether for practical or emotional reasons, we need to make changes to re-stimulate enthusiasm and pride for our own spaces.


Based on GlobalData, BHETA’s forecast for 2022 predicts a continuation of this consumer focus on home and garden.  Infection rates suggest Covid will continue to impact in 2022 – and a sizeable group of people will remain home focused.   The home-related experiences of 2020 and 2021 have also been habit-forming.  There will be a return to the office, but still more working time at home than pre-pandemic.

Macro-economic challenges

So, the key question is to what degree the macro-economic challenges of inflation, tax rises of £12 billion from April 2022 plus the £6 billion removal of the universal credit bonus, surging commodity costs and the current supply chain will hit consumer expenditure.   UK retailers are struggling to get products on to shelves due to record shipping costs, vacancies in transport and storage (highest in 20 years) and Brexit red tape.  August retail stock levels were down 21% compared with expected sales – the lowest since the 1980s – and 6.5% of businesses in the retail industry were unable to get the materials, goods or services they needed.

The lows and highs of consumer spending witnessed over the last eighteen months may be steadying, but for the home and garden market, the changes in demographics and fundamental shifts in consumer focus and resulting behaviour remain a significant positive.

BHETA’s quarterly market report is available exclusively to BHETA members. zm@bheta.co.uk.

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