Women Are Making Their Mark on Home Improvement

Women have made their mark in the world of home improvement and repair.  Today, tools are being developed that make women feel inspired and empowered.  This is a direct result of the number of women who have taken on their own home improvement and rennovation projects, and who are purchasing home improvement products.  The Wall Street Journal reports that women are buying 61% of major home fix-up products and, according to Forbes, women initiate 80% of all home-improvement purchase decisions, especially when it comes to big-ticket orders like kitchen cabinets, flooring and bathrooms.

Overall, women account for more than $70 billion worth of purchases in the home improvement industry, up from $55 billion in 1995 (according to a recent survey by the Home Improvement Research Institute).  This rising trend is due to women tackling home repair projects on homes they own themselves. In fact, within the first year of home ownership, women spend almost $9,000 on home improvement projects. Contributing to the growing trend of women purchasing tools are home improvement shows and hardware stores catering to women shoppers.

“Women are very influential and powerful consumers when it comes to home improvement projects around the house,” said Rob Cappiello, industry vice president of the National Hardware Show. “In addition, single women are purchasing new homes at twice the rate as single men, which contributes significantly to their increased involvement in do-it-yourself home improvement projects.”

Single women are now the second-largest group of home buyers in the U.S., after married couples, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Women are now responsible for 21% of home purchases, says the NAR, and at the end of 2010, women-headed households  represented approximately 28% of the U.S. total, or 31 million.

What Renovation Projects Interest Women?

Although many people still consider home improvement projects to be a man’s job, three-quarters of American women ages 25 to 49 say they are doing more home-improvement projects today than five years ago, and a solid 80% plan to tackle at least one home-related project in the next year.  In a national telephone survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Scott Towels by Kimberly-Clark, the #1 reason women took on home improvement jobs was to save money.  Personal pride and satisfaction was the second most important reason.

Hands-down, the most popular home improvement projects for women are:

  • Painting                                               86%
  • Bathroom remodeling                         38%
  • Wallpapering                                       35%
  • Plumbing                                             30%
  • Kitchen remodeling                            29%
  • Tile work                                             28%
  • Additions or renovations                    27%
  • Electrical work                                    23%
  • Laying carpet                                      18%
  • Window replacement                          14%

What Tools are Women Looking for Today?

The popularity of the Home & Garden TV Network (HGTV) and the Do It Yourself Channel (DIY) demonstrates how many women are taking on home improvement projects, and not just the easy ones.  Women have become much more adept at using power tools, air tools, all types of saws, and even plumbing and electrical tools.  Tools are an important aspect of women being able to handle these renovation projects and complete them like a “pro”.  Besides watching television shows, many women are seeking the assistance of the local home center or hardware stores, and consulting friends or reading books, in order to improve their skills.

When it comes to retailers, shopping in a home improvement center was described as “easy” by nearly one-third of respondents, while one-quarter deemed it “more fun than food shopping.”  Home improvement stores received high marks for their marketing efforts and treatment of women; with 64% of respondents saying the stores did a good job overall. Home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot are getting in on the action by providing in-store workshops to women. These workshops demonstrate what materials and tools are needed for how-to projects. Television programs and workshops help women become more knowledgeable about tools so they know what items to purchase.

This year (2011), Home Depot is recognizing that while women may be half of its customers, it has not catered to them in ways that translate into a larger market share.   “People are starting to spend more money again, and we need to participate in that,” said Gordon Erickson, the senior vice president for merchandising and décor at the Home Depot.

“For years, we’ve always had a bad — I don’t want to say a bad reputation, it’s more that people look at our business and think it is male-oriented, dominated,” Mr. Erickson said. “Fifty percent of our customers are female. We need to offer her products that she wants.”

Because of the accelerated interest women have in becoming “do-it-yourselfers”, lines of tools have been created specified to fit them more comfortably.   Some tools designed for today’s women include:

  • 16 oz. curve claw hammer with a smooth head. This all-purpose hammer is not too heavy on a woman’s wrist, but heavy enough so a woman can do the job right.
  • 25-foot tape measure. Its width makes it easy to read the numbers and it doesn’t bend when pulled out a few feet.
  • 10-inch tongue-and-groove pliers. This tool easily controls plumbing fittings and nuts.
  • Retractable utility knife with blade storage in the handle. This tool is used for cutting everything from vinyl tiles to drywall. The blade is easy to replace and stores in the handle for safety.
  • Ratcheting screwdriver with multiple bits. The multiple bits change out easily, depending on if a small or large Phillips or a slotted head is needed. The ratcheting action allows you to keep a steady pressure on the head of the screw while simply twisting the handle in place.
  • How-to Guides written specifically for women.

Women are looking for tools that make them feel independent.  Manufacturers, therefore, try to create tools that are lightweight, have rubber grips, and are ergonomically designed without compromising strength.  Women still want to know that the tools they are purchasing have strength – they don’t necessarily want “light duty” tools or tools that won’t get the same job done as those designed primarily for men.

Safety Is Particularly Important to Women

Because women are concerned with safety, some manufacturers are beginning to offer safety-related equipment designed specifically for women.  Before the rise of female do-it-yourselfers, safety gear did not fit women properly, causing them to feel uncomfortable and not fully protected. Now manufacturers like AOSafety and Kimberly-Clark are tapping into women’s buying power by creating a line of sleek and stylish protective gear that features eye, hearing and respiratory protection for women.

Without alienating the male market, common name tool manufacturers such as Black & Decker, Makita and Ryobi are creating products with features that are attractive to women. Products like sanders, power drills and hammers are lightweight, compact and ergonomically designed. Some lines have better-fitting, more comfortable products, including masks that are flexible and adjustable with breathable fabrics, gloves with a better fit and grip, and coveralls that allow the wearer to move easily and remain cool even when performing demanding tasks.

Throughout history, when we think of HOME, we think of WOMEN.  The home has always been the female domain.  Today, women are buying more homes than men, and are spending their time and money to renovate and repair those homes. Women, on a grand scale, are buying tools and other equipment to help them make those renovations and to prove that they are just as capable as men in the world of home repairs.

Retailers and Manufacturers – BE ADVISED! 

The market for women’s products in home improvement will continue to grow.  Are you paying attention and will you cash in on this relatively new area of sales and profitability?

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