What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us
COVID-19

Home improvement sales are holding steady despite the overall retail slump

Kristin Schwab May 19, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Home improvement sales saw only a small dip in the U.S. in April. Ming Yeung/Getty Images
COVID-19

Home improvement sales are holding steady despite the overall retail slump

Kristin Schwab May 19, 2020
Heard on:
Home improvement sales saw only a small dip in the U.S. in April. Ming Yeung/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Bryn Behrenshausen has been using his time during North Carolina’s stay-at-home order, and his government stimulus money, to upgrade his home.

“So I’m going through and repainting all the doors and trim,” he said. “Eventually we’ll be repainting all the walls. I’ve been doing landscaping. I built our own sofa.”

He’s also replacing all the carpet on the second story with vinyl flooring. At home it’s just him, his wife and “believe it or not, five cats. They’re the impetus for the carpet removal,” he said.

Retail sales took a stunning blow in April. Clothing sales, for instance, were down almost 80%. But one category that’s holding fairly steady is home improvement, which saw only a small dip in sales, down 3.5%. A report from Gravy Analytics, which tracks location data, shows foot traffic at those stores is steady. 

“A lot of it is people itching to get out, people having time, people looking for something to do and remain focused,” said Rod Sides, who is a vice chairman at Deloitte and leads its U.S. retail and distribution practice. Being classified as essential retail helped the industry, he added.

People are spending most of their time at home, and that’s naturally made them think about how they can improve their spaces.

“Your backyard has become your vacation spot,” said Scott Hazelton at IHS Markit.

Paint and plants are big sellers right now because they’re cosmetic and don’t demand a lot of skill. And more people are tackling necessities, like a leaky faucet, on their own.

“Do you really want to have people in your house that you might not know that well given the fear of contagion?” Hazelton said.

Plus, in an economic downturn, people tend to tackle bigger home projects themselves instead of hiring pricey contractors. 

That includes Behrenshausen in North Carolina. He’s already got his eyes on his next project: a new backsplash for the kitchen.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do vaccines mean for economic recovery?

COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon, according to expert witnesses who testified at a recent hearing held by the Joint Economic Committee. Put simply, we can’t eradicate the virus because it infects other species, and there will also be folks who choose not to get the vaccine or don’t mount an immune response, according to Dr. Céline Gounder at NYU School of Medicine & Bellevue Hospital. “That means we can’t only rely on vaccination,” Gounder said. She said the four phases of recovering from the pandemic are ending the emergency, relaxing mitigation measures, getting to herd immunity and having long-term control.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.