The Learning Academy in DIY & Trade

Exactly one year ago, Thierry Coeman’s essay Hammertime, about the future of the Home Improvement store was published. The essay described, through the S.M.I.L.E.D. model (Share-Meet-Interact-Learn-Enjoy-Discover), among other aspects, the causal connections for the present and future upheavals in Hardware, DIY and Trade.

Home Rejuvenation

One of the crucial analyses in the essay, described the generational transfer of DIY skills. Generations X, Y, Z grew up in the digital world and as a result, all leisure activities for the current generation are done through the computer and via large scale social media channels. For almost a decade, children have been experiencing leisure in a completely different way from how their parents did. DIY behaviour has been dramatically effected; all the more so during and after the pandemic. Nowadays, how to do chores is learnt via YouTube, in a virtual world – instead of a fun and instructive chat and precious exchange with a parent, grandparent or guardian, by trial and error.

The consequences of these upheavals are unprecedented: for today’s youth, DIY is no longer appealing; on the contrary, for the majority of the target group, DIY is a ‘must-do’, a duty that they prefer to outsource, even though it may seriously impact their home budget.

Learning Curves

Which companies have picked up this message and converted it into a concrete plan? It is encouraging to see that some of the world`s leading players in Home Improvement have started or even enhanced, their existing working groups to fulfil their educational role and function. OBI Germany, Kohnan Japan, Bunnings Australia and Belgian Repair & Share, together represent four outstanding cases of practice. These leading organisations have not hesitated to investigate via trial & error how they, within their existing business model, can enthuse the youth to undertake DIY and odd jobs again.

OBI Germany, the German Home Improvement market leader (market share 18% with a turnover close to €4bn) recently launched the concept of ‘Werkstatt’ in seven pilot stores.

Werkstatt is an instore Workshop area operating on 40m². Whether you want to assemble a cupboard, a wine rack or repair a workpiece, Werkstatt allows you to rent the entire space for less than €3 per half an hour. During that time slot you may use any tools and accessories on hand as well as several workbenches and rely on competent support and advice from the OBI experienced craftsmen on site in order to complete your project.

The greatest experience comes at the end: you leave the chippings and return home with your creation with a sense of accomplishment and a willingness to return.

In March 2022, OBI opened its Machbar in Cologne, which is positioned as an ‘Discovery & Experience Workshop’. In a pedestrian street, you just may pop into the store to experience for free, the enjoyment of creating your vegetable garden or spice tub that you may take home to your city apartment within an hour. The investment is substantial as the Machbar is located in a high street area. This said, the major merit for OBI is to interact with the passer-by who may be dreaming about renovating their kitchen or bathroom, but is unsure how to accomplish or even where to start.

Teeners at the Café

These learning curves don`t only need to focus on starting a new project. It also may be a repair which contributes to the circular and sustainable economy.

Second-hand and vintage are popular with young people. But what about their knowledge of how to repair broken things? The Belgian organisation ‘Repair & Share’ started a couple of months ago the ‘Repair Teens’ project which is specifically aimed at young teenagers between twelve and fourteen. The project runs ‘Repair Cafés’, a place where young people repair things together free of charge. That can be anything from furniture and electrical appliances to toys. Repair & Share works together with schools to enhance educational value and creativity. The attitude of giving broken things a new life fits in perfectly well with the circular economy of the future which is part of a larger mission conducted by the European Commission (Zero Waste Economy). The experience also puts the focus on promoting technical jobs as a repairer or maintenance technician.

DIY Studio for kids

Kohnan Shoji, Japan, (number three with 10% market share – Turnover €3.7 bn – 481 stores) opened its first DIY studio, under licence of Kidzania in September 2020.

The studio is located inside the mall of Koshien Mitsui Lalaport and invites kids to discover and make their own coasters whilst using an assortment of DIY equipment at their disposal.

Japanese demographics have been struggling for years with a declining birth rate and a rising aging population. With such in-store efforts, Kohnan management is undoubtedly on the right track to reconnect younger generations with DIY.

Little Bunnings

The market leader in Australia and New-Zealand (340 stores – Turnover €8.3 Bn) is by far the world pioneer in educational programmes for kids as the company has been hosting workshops for more than two decades. Back then, the idea behind the kids’ workshops was to give children the opportunity to learn basic DIY skills.

This philosophy still applies to the present DIY clinics, creating a safe space for learning and exploring. Facing the Covid challenges, Bunnings came up with a virtual DIY live series, hosted via Instagram.

During this period, the Australian retailer launched ‘Little Bunnings’, an online game and colouring-in activity that brought kids into a Bunnings scene where they could find hidden items around the store. It kept kids engaged with the Bunnings brand as well as its team, as they could click on a team member icon to provide them hints on how to play.

All these activities are promoted across a range of platforms including social media, instore marketing as well as through third party websites, schools and other community forums.

“Through brand engagement and educational interactions instore, Bunnings invests in embedding memories with customers of all ages.“, says Mike Schneider, Managing Director Bunnings. “As kids grow into teenagers and adulthood, we better understand how to engage and support the generational bond with our customers. And when one day, they will move to their first home, we trust that Bunnings will be front of mind when they have to buy their first toolkit or patch their first wall, Little Bunnings is a big issue!

From a pure management point of view, there is a lot to be learnt from DIY workshops.

It’s all about understanding what happens inside the mind of customers and recognising the role in investing in meaningful initiatives that guide customers throughout their life cycle.

The pandemic has presented a huge test for DIY-retailers. Home Improvement retailers need to actively adapt their strategies and seize the opportunities to develop educational programmes for the youth, tomorrow’s customers.

There are plenty of big-name entrepreneurs with ambition to ensure their future. Let’s trust they will find inspiration in the above-mentioned business cases.

No one can predict the future of our business; for sure kids are willing to be part of it.

It’s Hammertime!