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Cater to Customers Creating At-Home Offices and Classrooms

For millions of people across North America, kitchens have become classrooms, rec rooms are now executive board rooms and every other previously unused corner of a home is finding new purpose and possibility during the pandemic.

Research from PwC indicates at-home work and learning aren’t just a passing trend. Roughly 3 out of 5 employees in the U.S. expect to spend only three days in the office per week once the pandemic’s worst days subside, the remaining days spent continuing education or projects from home. As more consumers work and attend classes from home, independent retailers are poised to help them create practical, functional spaces.

Discover how Jim Lehrer, owner of Brownsboro Hardware & Paint in Kentucky, has helped customers tackle DIY home office transformations. Learn the products and simple projects he recommends and how you can replicate his success with your own clientele. Plus, get expert paint color advice from PPG representatives on which shades to recommend to customers who want to dig deeper to create a perfect home office or learning space.

As existing home sales rise and more workplaces and schools find value in hybrid schedules, put your business at the forefront of shoppers’ minds as they craft high-performance homes.

Rise, Shine & Paint
Even beyond the initial rise in DIY activity independent home retailers observed in 2020, Lehrer says he’s seen a true uptick in the amount of customers looking to create home offices and classrooms since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“The pandemic put time in people’s hands,” he says. “Beyond just wanting to do a project that had been on their list for some time, homeowners had specific projects they needed to do for their jobs and their children’s classes.”

He says after the initial run on personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and “the rampage on toilet paper,” his team saw DIY project sales take flight.

Lehrer says the category most directly affected by the home office and classroom trend was paint. He says a fresh coat of paint helped homeowners truly transform their spaces into something new and purposeful.

“I think we’ve sold more chalk paint and sundries since the pandemic began than in the past few years,” Lehrer says. “That paint gave parents a way to recreate a traditional classroom easily.”

But at-home offices and classrooms go beyond paint sales, Lehrer finds. He’s talked with customers about what they needed for at-home success and shared that insight with his team.

For extra convenience, many customers are taking to installing their own electrical outlets. The Brownsboro Hardware team connects them with the essentials and then recommends electrical covers to help match existing decor. Power trees and surge protectors helped round out electrical projects and simultaneously boost transaction size.

Retailers are also leading customers across departments to round out their new spaces. Lehrer says recommending houseplants is a good option to help bring new ambiance to rooms and help customers remember you ahead of the spring selling season.

Purchases from your store’s storage section can also help shoppers stay organized as they work and learn. Diversifying your inventory of storage solutions to include decorative options of all sizes  could be a quick way to establish your business as a one-stop home office partner.

Additionally, Lehrer saw an increase in lighting sales at his two stores in Kentucky.

“Bringing in new lighting options gave shoppers a different way to light the area they’d be spending most of their day,” Lehrer says.

Lehrer says it’s important to leave no stone unturned and suggest as many productivity and organizational products as possible when helping customers establish a practical, high-performance home office or classroom.

“We’ve seen that remote work and learning is probably here to stay for at least the near term,” Lehrer says. “People are going to be spending so much time in their own spaces, we really owe it to them to help them get it right.”

Renewing Your Sense of Color
Paint manufacturer PPG saw net sales rise in 2020, leading to $272 million in net income for the final quarter. The company has observed individuals and families reevaluate their living spaces, using color as a core design tool.

Alison Bruce, PPG senior marketing manager, says homes are pulling double duty.  “PPG has seen a surge in DIY home improvement projects as homeowners use extra time to tackle projects that have long been on their to-do lists,” Bruce says. “During the pandemic, we learned that no project is too big or too small for homeowners.”

Bruce also points to the role technology is playing in these residential painting projects, confirming customers are growing more comfortable with exploring color options online, using digital design planning tools and purchasing paint and sundries online for home delivery or in-store pickup. As stay-at-home workers and students scuffed walls, dinged desks and grew tired of the quotidian colors of their homes, Bruce says PPG was ready to offer new paint options.

PPG recommends homeowners look for interior paints and primers that both inspire them and withstand repeated heavy-duty cleaning from all-purpose cleaners.

Amy Donato, PPG senior color marketing manager, says recommending the right colors can help boost transaction sizes and inspire your shoppers. “With our homes now acting as our office, gym or classroom, color can play a major role in defining these areas and creating a desired mood,” she says.

Donato recommends starting conversations with interested customers about the important role color plays in a room’s total ambiance.

“Whether it’s in a bedroom, living room or kitchen, consider painting the wall that your desk sits against a different color than the rest of the room,” Donato says. “This approach will help give the area its own look and feel, while still visually separating your livable space from your new office.”

She says it’s important to listen to customers’ project goals and guide them toward intuitive color options. “Avoid going too bright in an office space, as bright yellow, red or oranges can be distracting and overstimulating,” she says.

One strategy for replicating classrooms in shoppers’ homes is to recommend painting those rooms in school colors.

“PPG recently commissioned a survey of more than 900 teachers, parents and educational administrators and discovered that there may be one unexpected thing that can positively impact students’ environment, joy and engagement: color,” she says. “More than 90 percent said colors and decor are meaningful to positively affecting student engagement.”

About Todd Taber

Todd Taber
Todd is trends editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. He graduated from Indiana University where he majored in journalism and French. Throughout his career, he has aimed to highlight small businesses and their community value. He joined NRHA in 2017.

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