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
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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