Consumers are tackling home improvement projects, but pros are hurting

  • The coronavirus pandemic has affected Lowe’s’ do-it-yourself and pro consumer bases quite differently, CEO Marvin Ellison said Wednesday.
  • Ellison spoke with National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay about Lowe’s’ consumer base.
  • Stuck-at-home DIY shoppers have been spending on home improvement projects, but the company’s significant pro customer base has struggled during the pandemic. 
  • “Customers were a little uncomfortable inviting someone in their home due to the concerns around COVID-19,” Ellison said.
  • But the CEO said that pro and do-it-for-me sales are “starting to rebound” a few months into the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a major boom in home improvement spending, Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison said Wednesday.

But that boost in sales largely came from the do-it-yourself crowd, as shoppers felt reluctant to risk allowing professional contractors into their homes over contagion fears. 

The home improvement CEO spoke with National Retail Federation president and CEO Matthew Shay as part of the organization’s retail leadership speaker series. In response to a question from Shay about “how consumers are feeling,” Ellison responded that it “depends on what consumer segment you’re looking at.”

Home improvement relies on three major consumer groups: do-it-yourself shoppers, professional builders and contractors, and do-it-for-me customers. The DIY faction is the largest, but pro sales make up around a quarter of the North Carolina-based company’s annual revenue. 

According to Ellison, each segment interacts with Lowe’s somewhat differently. Pros tend to use the chain as a “miniature supply house,” while do-it-for-me shoppers pay the company “to take on a more complex job, like building a deck or upgrading your kitchen or bathroom.”

From a home improvement perspective, the onset of COVID-19 has jolted DIY shoppers into action.

“That consumer has remained healthy because people are spending so much time at home,” Ellison said. “They have time to take on those projects that have been delayed or been on the to-do list for a very long time, whether it’s a project in the yard or a project in the home.”

But that hasn’t been the case for pro or do-it-for-me consumers. Ellison said that the pandemic has dampened purchasing habits from those two groups. Lowe’s’ installation businesses dropped down by half in terms of revenue. 

“Customers were a little uncomfortable inviting someone in their home due to the concerns around COVID-19,” Ellison said.

That being said, pros and do-it-for-me shoppers are “starting to rebound” in terms of home improvement spending. And Ellison told Shay that Lowe’s is committed to catering to each of its three major consumer segments.

“Overall, we have a simple focus,” he said. “We’re trying to simplify everything that we do to create a great shopping environment for our consumers.”

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