We’re not in the DIY business, we transform lives

Steve Collinge, MD at Insight Retail Group, talks about the positive impact the Home Improvement and Garden industries can have on peoples’ lives.

Something has gradually been dawning on me for the last six months and that is the genuine importance of the Home Improvement and Garden industry to peoples’ lives.

I’m not just talking about its importance to the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the retailers, suppliers and the factories who employ us and not just the importance of the industry to the economies of the many countries around the world where Do It Yourself and Home Improvement remains a pastime of the population.

I’m talking about the positive impact that the industry has on us as individuals and, more broadly, the emotional health of the nation. With the exception of the medical profession, I really can’t think of another industry that has the same transformational impact on peoples’ lives than Home Improvement and Gardening.

Think of clothing, sports, tourism, food and drink or even the entertainment industries. They all impact our lives in different ways, to different degrees, some short term and some longer term. You can’t beat the positive feeling of being on holiday, eating out at a lovely restaurant or wearing those new clothes, but these feelings tend to be relatively short lived and you can’t say that new pair of jeans ‘changed my life’.

Now stop for a moment and think about the feelings you experience when you walk into that newly decorated lounge or sitting having dinner in that gorgeous, brand new, open plan kitchen. Think of the transformation achieved when you replace the old, dirty bathroom with the new bathroom of your dreams or the pleasure of simply sitting in the garden that you have so lovingly curated and cared for.

Think of the feelings you experience when you walk into that new kitchen.

The emotional uplift you feel at that moment, sometimes for seconds, other times for minutes, is repeated every time you enter that space. Sometimes we don’t even notice it, but that injection of positivity into our lives is critically important. It lifts us, it boosts our mood and it changes our outlook on life; our emotional feelings, whether we’re aware of them or not, are the foundation of our thoughts, behaviours and actions.

We all know ‘Home is where the heart is’ and as a result how emotionally attached we are to our homes and gardens. It’s where we share the closest of times with our partners and family, where we open our doors to friends and it’s where we feel safest from the challenges and stresses that life throws at us. So, when we improve our homes, when we make that important space even better, it has a significant impact on our lives and relationships. The opposite of course is also true, living in a poorly maintained home, a place desperate for a makeover, can have a repetitive, negative impact on our emotions and feelings.

But let’s go a step further, I believe our industry can actually change lives. An article in The Independent published last September stated that doctors were now advising gardening for anxiety and depression, instead of medication. Apparently, it’s been proven that spending time outdoors and surrounding yourself with greenery and living things can be one of life’s great joys – and recent research shows that gardening can directly improve
people’s wellbeing and that taking part in community gardening can also encourage people to adopt healthier behaviours.

With the importance of the industry in our minds and the positive transformational effect that our products and services have on people’s lives, let’s now consider who is at the very heart of our businesses. The consumers, the customers, the shoppers who enter our stores every day to buy our home and garden products.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, the majority of our customers enter the store or visit our websites with a project in mind. It could be as simple as repairing or replacing something or it could be a transformational project, such as painting a nursery or lounge, they could be replacing their bathroom or laying a new floor. It could be landscaping the garden, laying a deck or building a new shed. Often, these projects are inspired by online searches, by gorgeous images on social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, in Home & Garden magazines, friends’ houses and retailer showrooms. The projects often have many elements attached to them, a range of different products, sometimes services and often a long list of questions that consumers need help with.

It’s all about the projects

And yet as an industry we rarely think in terms of ‘projects’, we only think in terms of products. Why, because it is the functional products we supply, the products we buy and the products we sell. It’s the product that generates the income, that creates the margin and the profitability that ultimately pays our wages.

Our businesses, whether we are suppliers or retailers are conditioned by and organised by product. Just think of the typical retail store, we present everything by functional product category, Paint, Flooring, Power Tools, Lighting, Timber, Growing Media and yet, our customers are thinking projects and we force them to scour the store to find what they are looking for, often with very little inspiration or help.

If we’re really going to deliver long term growth to the Home Improvement and Garden market we have to engage with our customers in the right way, speak their language and help them to complete the transformation of the homes and gardens that they long for.

With this new level of awareness, we as individuals and companies involved in the industry have a huge responsibility. Being aware of the impact we can have on people’s lives, needs to change the way we think about our customers, it needs to change the way we layout our stores and it needs to change the way we communicate to customers in our marketing

After all, we’re not just selling tins of paint, we’re helping the new parents prepare their home to welcome a new, little person into the world, we’re not just selling houseplants, we’re giving the new young, homeowner something to look after for the first time in her life. We’re not just offering a click’n’collect service, we’re making sure that the garden furniture arrives before Gran & Grandad do and we’re not just selling nails and screws, we
are creating memories that will last a lifetime.