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The DIY customer will need training

March 4, 2010  By John Stanley

johnstanley11WEB EXCLUSIVE

The DIY customer
will need training

Last year's recession had many consumers turning to Do It Yourself (DIY) to save costs. The issue is that many of these people don't have the skills to do DIY and need your guidance.

March 4, 2010 – The evolution of retailing saw the emergence of the DIY (Do It Yourself) market that flourished in the eighties and nineties and as the new century arrived consumers changed and the DIM (Do It For Me) market evolved. This saw an increase in the retail service industries, such as garden maintenance services, dog washing services and home maintenance services. The reason for this was consumers felt more affluent and luxury spending increased.
2008 changed the consumers buying habits as DIM became less affordable and unfashionable and as a result consumers returned to their DIY habits.
One thing that changed in those intervening years is that the new consumer wants to do DIY, but does not have the skills to do DIY.
A recent survey of young male British consumers carried out by Screwfix, the UK tool supplier, and reported in International Express, Dec.,2009, produced some interesting findings. Over the last decade young males have been focused on developing their careers and as a result have neglected their DIY skills. The results revealed 51 per cent of young men could not rewire a plug, compared with only 15 per cent of men over 50 who said that they could not rewire a plug. Thirteen per cent of young males could not change a light bulb, compare with only 3 per cent of over 50 year old men who could not change a light bulb. (I am sure that comment will result in a few jokes been emailed to my office.)
Interestingly one area where young males do better than older males is in building flat pack furniture; this indicates the power companies such as IKEA have had on the younger generations
How does this affect retailers?
We now have an opportunity to develop the DIY market as the need and want has reappeared in the market place. We have a consumer that wants to do it, but feels they do not have the skill to do it. This means the retailer who does not talk their language will lose the sale.
It is time to reflect on how you get your DIY message across to your consumer base to ensure they have the confidence to deal with you as the trusted partner on their projects. In previous articles I have mentioned that the Gen X is a project based demographic group and that they are more likely to purchase the kit to do the job, as long as it can be completed in a weekend.
This means as a retailer you have a number of opportunities to help the new DIY consumer.
1. Men don't listen
Most women will tell you men do not listen. Give us all the information we will need in the store, we will nod that we understand, get home and will have forgotten half of what we are told, as a result we then muddle through the project, not admitting our failures. As a retailer you can use this to your advantage.
Provide the information in an easy to understand format, either in an "How to Leaflet" or on the web as a You Tube or Facebook Guide for your consumer, or both, to enable you to provide a number of ways of informing the consumer. Your sales team should promote the leaflets and media how to guides as part of the service that is offered to the consumer.
2. Start improvement classes
Consumers want to learn, but are afraid of going back to school. This means that you could start small " How to Classes” – these should be held in the store and not structured like a class room. These could be held on a weekly basis and with a different project each week. Note the key is to develop project classes to enable the learner to complete a project rather than learn just one skill, this also allows you to promote that project in the store as a buying opportunity for the
My wife and I recently purchased a new stove, the supplier offered us a workshop on how to use the stove, we went one Saturday to the workshop and were shown how we could make beautiful desserts on our new stove. The one problem was that they did not tell us how to switch the stove on and we had to find out ourselves when we got back home. The lesson is start with the basics and then move on to the advanced learning skills. Two level workshops may work better for you so that more advanced learners will not get bored with the basic skills required by other learners

3. Get the children involved

Some hardware and garden stores that I am aware of are working closely with schools, they have realized that their parent’s generation missed out on learning these skills and that it is now the responsibility of the industry to teach these skills to the next generation. Getting involved with your local school not only is rewarding, but it also makes your business the local hero in what you do. The children will talk about your business to their parents and the parent will often then feel they should support you as shoppers.
4. Remember it is not about the stuff anymore

Retailing has changed; it is not about the product anymore. What you sell can be purchased anytime on the net. For example your physical store was probably closed on Christmas Day, but it is estimated that 4.3 million Brits went shopping on Christmas Day on the net and spent 120 million pounds at an average sale of 27.90 pounds.
The message is that you need to sell the experience and the services if you want the consumer to come into the physical store and engage with your team. This means that the training you provide your team is more critical than it has ever been. A sales assistant who gives the impression that they do not know what they are talking about can do your business more harm that they have ever done in the past. Now the customer shrugs their shoulders and goes to their computer for advice instead. They also trust the information they are getting online to a greater degree than your sales team.


In today’s competitive retail scene, it will be the best teacher that gains the consumers support, not the retailer with the largest range.

John Stanley M.Sc
(Horticulture) (CSP) has been called the leading horticultural
consultant in the world today by garden centres in the USA. A
background teaching perishable retailing in the UK, he is  WA
Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 and WA Small Business Champion 2009
Education, was voted 14th of The Power 50 (the 50 most powerful and
influential people in British horticulture) in  2008.  Email John on

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