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HIRI Conference Explores Robust Home Improvement Market

At the HIRI 2018 Insights Conference, an array of speakers detailed the economic trends and consumer preferences that are shaping the home improvement industry.

The annual event, presented by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), was Sept. 18-19 in Oak Brook, Illinois.

HIRI staffers greet attendees as they arrive at the 2018 conference.

The event began with an introduction by Grant Farnsworth, director of business development for The Farnsworth Group research firm. Farnsworth welcomed attendees and profiled the conference’s lineup of speakers.

Mark Boud, chief economist for Hanley Wood/Metrostudy, reported that a low housing supply across the nation is motivating many homeowners to stay put and invest in home improvements and renovations instead of buying new homes.

Zach Williams, founder and CEO of Venveo, a company that helps building material manufacturers boost online sales, discussed the ways manufacturers and retailers can mimic Amazon’s success.

According to Williams’ data, 97 percent of all consumer transactions start on the internet, but only 6 percent take place online. Consumers are researching products and prices online, but still choosing to visit brick-and-mortar locations to make actual purchases, Williams says.

He advised companies involved in the home improvement sphere to invest in text messaging and online communications, citing data that reveals 66 percent of consumers prefer to reach brands via online messaging.

Leslie Gillock, vice president and director of insights for marketing communications company Wray Ward, and Brenda Bryan, executive director of the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), presented information on how manufacturers and retailers can overcome underspending in home improvement remodels.

According to Gillock and Bryan, one-third of consumers who had remodeled their kitchens in the past year would spend more money on the project if they were able to do it again.

Homeowners who have regrets about their remodels often drew inspiration from more sources than homeowners who were satisfied with their remodels. The two presenters recommended home improvement professionals listen closely to their clients to help homeowners prioritize their projects and not be overwhelmed by design possibilities.

The conference provided opportunities for home improvement professionals and researchers to network.

The conference also included a panel discussion led by Kermit Baker, senior research fellow of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. He was joined by Allison Lowrie, chief marketing officer of ANGI Homeservices; Steve Bissell, president of decorative services at Kohler Co.; Doug Jennings, vice president of data, analytics and customer insight for Lowe’s; and Dave Colford, chief revenue officer for Hanley Wood.

The panelists touched on many issues impacting the home improvement market, including the national labor shortage. Multiple panel members believe there will be no quick solution to the labor shortage, but suggested that presenting trade careers as viable, lucrative options for students is one key way to solve the issue.

The panel also agreed technology will play an increasingly prominent role in home design and construction. Colford believes technology is making eco-friendly building materials and systems more affordable and attainable than ever.

For additional conference coverage and to learn takeaways from the event that retailers can use to connect with customers, check out the November issue of Hardware Retailing magazine. Subscribe today to guarantee you get a digital copy of every issue.

About 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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