COVID-19

Home-improvement stores thrive as residents take on projects

Erika Beras May 19, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A Home Depot in Miami. The home improvement chain reported a 7% increase in quarterly revenue. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Home-improvement stores thrive as residents take on projects

Erika Beras May 19, 2020
A Home Depot in Miami. The home improvement chain reported a 7% increase in quarterly revenue. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
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We got a sense of how some Americans have been spending their time and money during lockdown Tuesday when Home Depot reported quarterly results. Same-store sales were up more than 6%, and revenue was up around 7%.

In much of the country, hardware and garden stores have been deemed essential, so while people have been staying home, they’ve taken on nonessential projects — like sprucing up their homes. And that’s been good for independent hardware and home-supply stores.

When film and TV production shut down in Pittsburgh back in March, assistant director Jon Madeiros was out of work. So he decided to retile his front entryway and turn his attic into a yoga room. 

“It keeps my mind active. And it keeps my hands active,” he said.

He’s spent around $5,000 on supplies over the past couple of months. Hardware stores have been busy keeping up with demand from DIYers like Madeiros. Therese Bourassa-Bernier owns a True Value hardware store in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She said sales picked up when people realized the pandemic wasn’t going to be short-lived.

“It was going to go on for a while, [and] they were like, ‘I got to get out of the house,’ ” she said. “They weren’t going to sit and watch soap operas all day.”

The biggest seller at her store is paint. True Value reports that paint sales nationwide are up more than 20% over last year. Since we’re spending so much time at home, we want to make it nicer, according to Treeny Ahmed, executive director at the Yale Center for Customer Insights. And, in uncertain times, home-improvement projects can give us a feeling of being in control.

“Some sense of structure as our days kind of blend into weeks and blend with each other,” Ahmed said. “A home-improvement project provides a very tangible thing to do. It has a beginning, a middle and an end.”

The same goes for gardening projects. Doug Satterfield owns Rollier Hardware near Pittsburgh. He’s seen a huge boost in demand for seeds, topsoil and supplies for outdoor decks.

“Everybody’s life was too busy before, and they just felt that these things weren’t a valuable way to spend their time,” Satterfield said. “But when people are sitting around, not being able to do anything, all of a sudden, putting a garden in the backyard sounds like a great thing to do again.”

Or putting up a fence. That’s what Amanda Rich in Snoqualmie, Washington, has been doing. And while it’s under construction, it’s been serving a second purpose for her 4-year-old daughter and a friend who lives next door.  

“It kind of just provides like a marker for like, you know, you’re gonna stay on our side, and he’s gonna stay on his side,” Rich said.

Perfect for socially distant water-gun fights. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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