While the Covid-19 pandemic decimated some industries, such as hospitality and tourism, other industries found that they were so inundated by orders that they couldn’t cope with them. Home improvement was one of the industries. Allegedly consumers had saved a pot of £200 billion during lockdown, as they were unable to go out and spend. Much of this pot was redirected towards improving their home environments.
The number of home improvement applications rose by a quarter in 2021, compared to those in 2019. Again, between 2019 and 2021, applications for home offices increased by a staggering 250 per cent.
The industry was as busy as ever
While millions of people were compelled to set up their desks at home and work from there until the return to work bell was sounded by the government, many hundreds of thousands of factory workers and installation teams were as busy as ever. Artificial grass installers, window and door installers, home office erectors, kitchen fitters, these armies of professional and dedicated workers powered through all the lockdowns, sticking to the social distancing rules and mask mandates to ensure that homeowners could enjoy the benefits of spending more time in their homes without compromising the quality of their work.
Focus on outdoor living spaces
A strong focus caused by the pandemic was the creation of more user-friendly outdoor living spaces, spaces that could be used as much for work as for play.
Home improvement companies and DIY shops with a creative eye sold ideas that didn’t necessarily need big budgets. No matter how small and awkward the place – a small plant free backyard, a restricted roof terrace, a Juliet balcony – no space could not be converted into an attractive, enticing place to either relax away from the computer screen or, indeed, set up a desk and use as a dedicated work station.
While this increase in demand was great for the industry, it also threw up some serious supply chain issues and pricing problems. The pandemic had slowed down logistics, meaning that companies struggled to get materials in and had to extend lead times on all orders. While this might seem like a good problem to have, it created a volatile and unpredictable marketplace that destabilized slow and steady growth.
The industry was also beset by price rises on imported goods, creating a situation which led to serious cash flow problems. A company with full order books would find themselves in a situation where they had no money coming in for several weeks, yet had to pay out significant sums in order to get in raw materials at elevated prices. Sometimes those raw material prices would increase almost overnight, creating a disparity between quotes they had agreed with the customer and the cost of the job based on original prices. They were legally obliged to honour the original prices even though they were now having to pay the increased price. The difference came straight off their bottom line.
The calm after the storm
Although sales have calmed down since the covid crisis, the current cost of living crisis is beginning to dig into the home improvement industry. Rising energy prices and an unpredictable future mean that many might have spent their money on changing their windows, for example, are now holding off on doing any work until the landscape looks a little more predictable again. Equally, the increase after increase currently being applied to interest rates is having the opposite effect of stimulating an economy which is in desperate need of investment. With a lack of reasonable fixed-rate mortgages and a general feeling of fear and anxiety, homeowners are worried about making commitments which might tip them over the edge financially.