DIY Enthusiasm Dims As More Women Say 'Do It For Me!'

by , Jul 31, 2008, 5:00 AM
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Whether it's a gloomy economy in general or a sense that they're stuck with their houses anyway, Americans are backing off the do-it-yourself craze.

A new study from Vertis Communications finds that while 81% of Americans are planning home improvement projects in 2008, only 44% want to do it themselves, down from 56% in 2006. And women are even less likely to be wielding a paintbrush: Just 32% of female decision-makers between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are likely to take on a DIY project, compared to 59% in 2006. And among women decision-makers in the 18-to-24 category, only 29% are eager to get their hands dirty, compared to 48% in 2006.

But that doesn't mean they have lost their taste for home improvement: The "big three" projects--landscaping, interior painting and remodeling a kitchen and/or bathroom--are nearly as popular in 2008 as they were in 2004. Some 39% will paint their homes this year, compared to 40% in 2004; 34% plan to landscape, compared to 35% in 2004, and 17% say they will redo a bathroom or kitchen, compared to 18% in 2004.

Still, there are significant shifts within those percentages, says Scott Marden, director of marketing research for Vertis. "As far as major remodeling projects, those consumers are all towards the upper-income levels, earning above $75,000 a year," he says, "Middle-income people are delaying purchases that aren't necessities."

The slow-moving real-estate market is likely affecting kitchen and bath remodeling, which are considered key to selling a house, he says. (And as credit tightens, homeowners have less access to the home-equity loans frequently used to finance such projects.)

And while that may look bleak for big-box retailers like the Home Depot, which has built its marketing position around the "You can do it. We can help" theme, Marden thinks there are actually plenty of opportunities for home-improvement stores. Its research found, in fact, that these stores are still shoppers' favorite starting point, with 57% turning to large home improvement stores first for home-improvement needs.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based Home Depot is reviewing all the $600 million its spends annually with advertising and marketing agencies, reports Advertising Age.)

Consumers are cutting back on pricey projects. Only 7% plan to install siding or roofing, for example, compared to 12% in 2004; only 7% intend to build a deck, down from 10%, and only 11% will install new doors or windows, down from 14%.

"People aren't moving, and they aren't traveling--so products and services that make their homes seem more like a place to relax and enjoy life are going to have wide appeal," he says. "And because these middle-income shoppers are now so focused on value, they are going to respond to things like coupons, rebates, discounts and other special promotions."

Vertis, based in Baltimore, has been tracking the DIY market, which peaked in 2006, for ten years.

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