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4 Selling Tips for Post-Pandemic Home Improvement Projects 

Last year, the number of people engaging in home improvement projects soared, as consumers sought to pass the time and improve their living spaces while spending more time at home. This year, consumers will continue to tackle projects around the house, with nearly 90 percent of respondents to Axiom’s Homefront Insights Survey saying they will spend the same amount of time or more on home improvement projects this year.

Hardware Retailing talked to Kathryn Emery, home improvement and lifestyle expert, to glean additional insights into what’s trending this year in home improvement, areas retailers can focus on to cater to their DIY customers and sales tips for selling these products. As a 20-year home improvement and lifestyle expert, Emery is a source for “Good Morning America,” HGTV Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, USA Today and more, and is a host and panelist at spokesperson for the National Hardware Show.

Hardware Retailing (HR): With all the time spent at home in the past year working on home projects, have consumers run out of projects to do in their home? 

Kathryn Emery (KE): DIYers will never run out of projects to do at home. In 2020, there was a surge of activity as people spent more time at home, noticing things that needed to be fixed, updated or enhanced, and they had the time to do it. I think this opened up a whole new level of DIYers, as people took on minor projects and realized they actually can complete projects at home on their own. 

HR: What types of home projects are trending this year so far? What areas of the home are consumers focusing on updating this year?

KE: Multifunctional living spaces is something that emerged in 2020, is continuing into 2021 and will never go away. Multifunctional spaces offer somewhere to work from home, do schoolwork and socialize with family. It’s a gathering space with an office feel for business-type use, including a video call-friendly area. This year, expect to see the outdoor living space continue to thrive and grow; consumers were almost forced to create outdoor living areas in 2020 to gather with family, and comfortable, stylish spaces were extended into the backyard and even the front yard. People are comfortable gathering, cooking, relaxing, working and playing outside, and they will create spaces at home to do that. 

Selling Tip: Help customers envision what a multifunctional space could look like by creating a display that includes a desk, seating and lighting. Include suggestions for relaxing, neutral paint options and extras like baskets and bins for organization. See how Brownsboro Hardware & Paint looks beyond the paint and housewares departments for other products customers can use in those spaces. Think broadly when merchandising outdoor products, including add-ons like barbecue sauces and spices to go with grills and dinnerware for patio tables. 

HR: What are some easy ways homeowners can refresh outdoor spaces? 

KE: Start by looking at green spaces and live goods and what can be trimmed back, renewed, replaced or planted. With battery-powered outdoor power equipment, it is easier than ever to DIY when it comes to yard maintenance. Pressure-washing concrete and other surfaces is a simple way to refresh those areas that may need a little TLC.

Selling Tip: If you sell pressure-washers, don’t forget to tell customers about the different pressure-washing solutions available depending on the job they want to do. These solutions work in every machine and come in different varieties suitable for wood, concrete and multi-surfaces. Check out several ways you can spruce up your outdoor living displays to encourage additional sales. 

HR: What are some of the painting trends you’re seeing this year? Is gray losing ground as a popular neutral? Is wallpaper still on trend?

KE: Painting continues to be one of the most popular projects people take on at home and is a simple way to enhance the look and feel of a room. Neutral tones are gaining popularity as people look to make spaces seem bigger and also create workspaces at home. Grays and beiges continue to be extremely popular, with Ultimate Gray even being selected as the Pantone 2021 Color of the Year. Wallpapers that easily stick and are removable are the wave of the future, as you can easily change them out, and they quickly add style without a lot of work. 

Selling Tip: Paint choices can be overwhelming for customers, so create a display showing the most popular neutrals in different color families. This gives the customer a side-by-side comparison of different options, and it allows them to see the difference between warmer and cooler neutrals. Also, offer customers larger sample chips so they can see a bigger swatch on their wall when they take colors home to help their decision. You can do the same with wallpaper, carrying just a few options for those customers who are too overwhelmed with the plethora of special order choices and providing large swatches. Chalkboard and other specialty paints have also been big sellers this year, so consider adding those paints to your product mix. 

HR: What are some of the home decor trends this year?

KE: Comfortable, classic and functional spaces with basic colors and classic shapes and lines are trending in 2021 as people are still spending more time at home and looking to make the space livable and enjoyable. Nature will be brought in more, including natural materials and textures like wood, granite and marble, from panels on a wall to accents on a floor. We’ll also see more people bringing in green and nature throughout with live goods and whimsical nature-inspired decor. Work-from-home spaces will still be popular and feature lighter colored simple walls and minimal decor that is still fully functional with a comfy chair or desk, lighting and Skype or Zoom-friendly wall. 

Selling Tip: Succulents are hardy and easy-to-care for and an easy way to bring nature and a touch of green into a room; consider adding them to your home decor product mix. Create displays with nature-inspired goods, and include green paints and wallpapers with nature patterns and colors so customers can see how to complete the look. 

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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