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DIY stores are hammered by lack of do-it-yourself drive

Written by : News | Tue 09th Dec 2014

 

Homebase, one of Britain’s biggest do-it-yourself chains, has blamed the rise of a generation who can’t tell a pozidrive from a rawlplug for its decision to close a quarter of its stores, affecting up to 2,000 jobs.

When the last housing boom neared its peak a decade ago, DIY was primetime TV, with Changing Rooms’ Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Linda Barker – and a host of copycat shows – dispensing home makeover advice.

But while Britain’s housing market is red hot again there has been no equivalent revival in DIY, with a growing number of homeowners calling in professionals when they want home improvements.

Homebase said the closure of 80 of its stores was at least partly down to “the rise of a generation less skilled in DIY projects”.

John Mercer, an analyst at market research firm Mintel, backed the Homebase view: “DIY has fallen out of fashion and its unlikely to reach those peaks again in the near future.”

John Walden, chief executive of Homebase’s parent company Home Retail Group, said DIY retailers are also being battered by online rivals, a glut of big-shed DIY shops and consumers with less time available to tackle home improvements.

“People have less time and less skill,” he said. “They are more likely to look to a third party for help.”

According to Mintel, 78% of homeowners expect to do some DIY this year, but it is not a priority and consumers prefer to spend their time on leisure activities and buying clothes. Mercer said young people in particular are still interested in improving their homes, but less in doing it themselves.

The rise of online specialists such as Screwfix, Toolstation, Wallpapermarket and Victoria Plumb and of discount stores such as Home Bargains, B&M Stores and even Aldi, which sells tools, wallpaper and gardening accessories in its bargain aisle, are also eating into the big chains’ market.

“DIY has been a tough business in the UK for most of the last five or six years,” said Walden. “It’s cyclical, caused by the economic downturn. There has now been an improvement in the economy but there are also structural challenges. There is too much retail space in DIY in the UK.”

Homebase is closing a quarter of its 323 branches over the next three years, which could affect up to 2,000 jobs. Walden would not comment on how many job losses the closures would entail but said he hoped many staff would be redeployed within the group, which also owns Argos, or taken on by the retailers which take over the stores when Homebase moves out.

The chain’s closures are the latest step in a shakeout in the DIY business which started with the collapse of smaller rival Focus in 2011. The UK’s biggest chain B&Q has also said it has 20% too much space. It is slicing chunks off 18 of its largest stores to hand over to retailers such as Asda.

Walden said Homebase was a “good business” which could grow once it had closed unprofitable stores and taken steps to improve customer service, modernise its digital and online approach and cut prices in some areas.

In the six months to the end of August – the busiest period in the DIY calendar total sales rose just 1.5% to £834.5m. Walden insisted that Home Retail was not giving up on the DIY chain. “It’s going to be a smaller business but a stronger business,” he said.

Sebastian Ballard [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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