No doubt about it. DIY is big business. Just take a look at the phenomenal growth of retail behemoth The Home Depot....


The big box home improvement retailer markets itself to the DIY customer, home improvement professionals and contractors alike. Just go into one of its stores on the weekend, and you'll see couples and entire families shopping for appliances, paint, whole new kitchen and bath design plans, windows and doors, decking materials, on and on. But you'll also see many single women. The fact is: in many American households, there isn't a "man of the house" and many women are the heads of households.
Now take note of the fact there is a brand new cable channel uniquely devoted to all things DIY–home improvement inside and out, gardening, carpentry, furniture making, plumbing, electrical work, planning and executing additions, painting–the topics are endless. Women, as well as men, are plugged into this network in a big way. And HGTV (Home and Garden Television) has been a huge hit with women since its inception.
I have to admit I'm fascinated by The Home Depot. In 2005, The Home Depot's sales exceeded $81.5 billion, making it the largest home improvement retail operation in the world, the second largest U.S. retailer behind WalMart, and the third largest retailer in the world, after WalMart and French supermarket giant Carrefour.
When retail operations are this large, how do marketers go about building and retaining relationships with their customer? Especially women?
John Costello, former EVP of merchandising and marketing for The Home Depot, once observed that even though the company knew that 50% of its transactions were with women, the company still continued to market itself far more aggressively to men! Interesting, isn't it? After all, so many women orchestrate home improvement projects, plan them and bring them to fruition, purchasing the necessary components of the projects, working on them in concert with friends or family members, and even by themselves. . .why wouldn't The Home Depot do more to appeal to women?
Apparently, The Home Depot finally got it and did just that. "Do-It-Herself" classes, initiated in 2004, specifically targeted women. 280,000 women have signed up for these classes in the past three years, and when surveyed after the first year, a whopping 97% enjoyed the experience and indicated they would sign up for more! The Home Depot publicizes its workshops for women in local media and on its web site. It's easy to sign up for workshops and to give feedback on them.
Just go to www.homedepot.com and go to the drop-down box titled "Know How," then click on Clinics. Once you get there, you'll also note that The Home Depot offers Kids' Workshops, Emergency Preparedness Clinics, Weekly Clinics and even Event Weekends, as well.
All of these workshops and clinics are great ideas, and perfect for the DIY crowd. I'm betting lots of women are deriving a great deal of satisfaction out of learning how to do their own projects. I'm also sure that their experiences widely vary from clinic to clinic and store to store, but this is a solid start. I applaud The Home Depot for making a commitment to some of its most important customers–women.
Given the fact that according to the National Association of Realtors, 21% of all homes sold last year, or 1.76 million properties, were purchased by single women, I expect many more DIY programs to be developed and particularly target women. The Home Depot's chief rival, Lowe's, has reacted to its research that 95% of female homeowners consider themselves DIYers by brightening its stores, lowering shelves, offering tools made for smaller hands and they've begun offering clinics for women, as well. Ace Hardware has likewise offered smaller tools and DIY clinics for women.
This makes me wonder: how many more community-based programs could be developed to serve women's needs? How about the locally owned and operated hardware, paint and home improvement stores out there? Are they paying attention to their customers, male and female? Or do they merely attribute their slowing sales to the larger assortments and lower pricing in the big box stores in their area that they can't compete with?
Why don't they market themselves with stellar service, better information and product knowledge and workshops for their customers–especially the women in their area? Maybe it's time for them to take a cue from The Home Depot. They might be surprised by their ensuing success.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.