A Fundamental Shift

2020 was a very different year to any other in living memory. Locked away at home, we were faced with a list of jobs and imperfections in our homes and gardens that we’d been avoiding tackling for years. With the two main excuses of limited funds and time no longer relevant, we were forced to pick up DIY tools and set to work; walls were painted, bedrooms and kitchens were transformed into offices and gardens became entertaining spaces.

But with stores forced to close their doors and long waiting times to even access websites, the task of improving our homes and gardens turned into a race as we scrambled to source the products we needed. Our time and money was spent desperately trying to get hold of the right emulsion paint colour the correct shade for the garden shed and the applicators to apply it.

Irrespective of whether we were home owners or renters, 2020 proved to be a year of quick and easy transformations, of painting rooms, finding storage solutions and tidying the garden.

The Savings Balloon

The three UK lockdowns had an unprecedented impact on the income and expenditure of individuals and the broader UK economy for households and businesses. At the time of writing there has been a £186.1 billion increase in currency and deposits held by households, reflecting the record increase in the households saving ratio as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme cushioned the fall in household income. The household savings ratio (household savings as a proportion of household disposable income) increased from 9.6% in Q1 2020 to 29.1% in Q2 of 2020, a record high since the series began in 1987.

This sharp rise in the households’ savings ratio in 2020 has been echoed across the G7 countries.

But the record increase in the UK savings does not capture the nuanced experiences of individual households and the extent to which this will affect Home Improvement and Gardening expenditure in the months and years ahead. This will partly depend on which households have seen their savings rise, and what those households plan to do with the increased funds they have available.

To get a handle on this, the Bank of England conducts a bi-annual household survey with NMG Consulting to gather data on households’ finances and their expectations for the economy. The 2020 H2 NMG survey was conducted between 25th August and 15th September 2020. At that point, 28% of those surveyed had accumulated additional savings as a result of the pandemic, while 20% had depleted their savings. Unsurprisingly, households whose savings increased due to the pandemic were much less likely to have seen their incomes fall (for example, because of furlough or unemployment) than households whose savings decreased.

The accumulation of savings was greatest for high-income households (see chart below). 42% of high-income employed households saved more during the pandemic, compared with 22% of low-income employed households. Retirees also saved more: 36% of them increased their savings.

Interestingly, at that time only 10% of the households that increased their savings (less than 3% of the whole sample) planned to spend the money they had saved. About 70% said they planned to continue to hold the savings in their bank accounts. Others planned to use their savings to pay off debts, invest, or top up their pensions.

A Fundamental Shift

However, the results of this survey are not being reflected in what we’re seeing with regard to consistent, high demand both across the Home Improvement and Trade sectors in the UK. With quick fixes out of the way in 2020, the increase in our savings is giving many of us an appetite for something more ambitious, as we begin to focus on bigger, structural projects and longer term solutions to improve our living spaces.

The fundamental shift is away from the quick and easy painting, storage improvement and garden makeover projects and is leading to a significant increase in demand for new kitchens, bathrooms, doors and windows, home extensions and increased investment in our gardens.

The findings taken from this year’s Rated People Home Improvement Trends Report, (www.ratedpeople.com/blog/home-improvement-trends-report) are particularly interesting. From the rise of the home office, to the home improvements projects homeowners now value the most – they analysed more than 500,000 jobs on Rated People (UK’s tradesperson finder service) and spoke to thousands of homeowners across the UK to uncover the renovation and interior design trends that will dominate 2021 and beyond.

With gardens being a sanctuary for many of us in 2020, 39% of people got more into gardening during lockdown, and 64% of UK residents now say they wouldn’t buy a home if it didn’t have any outside space.

Many of the top gardening jobs completed in 2020 also made their way onto gardening wish lists for 2021. 47% of UK residents are planning improvements for their gardens this year, and the top jobs that we’re keen to tackle include: planting new flowers and trees, creating a vegetable patch; and installing a new shed, fencing or external lighting.

In Conclusion

With extensions, new kitchens, new bathrooms, home offices and garden investment all on the cards, it’s clear where our increased savings are going to be spent in 2021 and as foreign holidays begin to look less and less likely, the fundamental shift we’re seeing away from quick fixes to structural
investment is here to stay.

The knock-on benefit of this is already being felt across many associated product categories with sales of paint, tiles, doors, wooden flooring and lighting all seeing consistent increases in demand across both trade and DIY channels, all of which is positive news for our industry.

Steve Collinge is an international speaker, influencer, retail commentator and is Managing Director of Insight Retail Group Ltd and executive editor of Insight DIY. You can follow Steve on LinkedIn and on Twitter.