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Winter is coming for home improvement retailers

Andy Uhler Nov 18, 2020
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A shopper pushes her cart while people wait in line to enter a Home Depot in Marina del Rey, California, earlier this year. Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Winter is coming for home improvement retailers

Andy Uhler Nov 18, 2020
Heard on:
A shopper pushes her cart while people wait in line to enter a Home Depot in Marina del Rey, California, earlier this year. Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images
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Home Depot’s quarterly earnings beat expectations Tuesday; Lowe’s reported Wednesday morning it saw same-store sales growth of more than 30% last quarter, and just beat earnings estimates. These stores have seen gains over the summer during the pandemic as lots of folks are occupying time at home with improvement projects. But winter is coming, so what will that mean?

Home Depot told investors that this summer, people spent a lot on big-ticket items — like riding lawn mowers and outdoor power equipment. But as Sonia Lapinsky, managing director at AlixPartners, points out, companies can’t count on those one-time purchases in the future.

“How are they going to keep engaging and expanding their consumer base? Because a lot of these things are one-time deals, and there’s only so much we can improve and fix up,” she said.

Lapinsky said as long as we’re stuck at home, home improvement retailers should be in good shape. But Neil Saunders, retail analyst at GlobalData, said in the fourth quarter, the growth rates may come down a bit.

“Because obviously, we’re not going to spend as much on the garden, which has been a big area of home improvement spending over the summer months,” he said. “And as it gets into winter, people just don’t spend as much time outdoors.”

But Saunders said some restaurants and bars will be making improvements to keep customers eating outdoors through the winter. And those business owners also go to places like Home Depot and Lowe’s looking for lumber, lights and heating lamps to retrofit their operations.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

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.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

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.

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