The Wavering Weekend:
How Leisure Brands will Flourish (or Falter) when Free Time Habits Change Post-Pandemic

04.22.2021

Part One: DIY Brands

Without question, the pandemic has completely upended every routine—work, home, pastime, or otherwise.

Over the past few months, we’ve been considering the inevitable reorganization of recreational pursuits as life creeps back towards normal. The brands we work with are built for workshops and weekends: the products and services people turn to when the office lights go out, or they’ve hung up their hardhat. Since recreational habits are many and varied, we’re watching trends across a wide range of categories, from DIY and workshop brands, to outdoor rec, crafts, hobbies, cooking, eating, drinking, travel, and more.

Some categories and brands actually posted big gains in the past year—naturally home improvement / DIY brands reaped the rewards of a nation stuck at home staring at peeling paint and under-tended gardens, and streaming entertainment enjoyed a bull market. Others, like dining, gyms, travel, and performing arts sustained a massive (and ongoing) hit. In this article, we’ll focus on workshop / DIY, a pastime category that got a significant pandemic bump. In Part Two we explore the impact of another thriving category: outdoor recreation.

We’ve honed in on some meaningful predictions for the unique year ahead that can help your brand take advantage of a recreational reordering that’s mere months away.

From DIFM to DIY...and Back?

As a new(ish) homeowner with Do It For Me (DIFM) tendencies, I saw my own habits change once a deadly virus could accompany a plumber or painter into my domicile. With professional assistance off the table for a year, some of the projects my wife and I tackled were out of pure necessity.

But we also spent time, and plenty of money, on DIY supplies for more enjoyable home and yard updates. Resources that in past years would have gone to dining out, traveling, and day care. We weren’t alone: my neighborhood was full of homeowners with time on their hands and plenty of projects to tackle. Our street’s tulips had never been better-tended, nor its backyards more barbecue friendly.

Collectively, that led to a banner year for the DIY category. Not only did our workshop clients like Duluth Trading Company and J-B Weld see solid growth in a tough economy, Home Depot and Lowe’s stocks hit all-time highs in 2020.

But will this renewed DIY spirit lead to continued growth once competition for recreational dollars returns to normal?

Conventional wisdom suggests that there will be some slowdown: it’s much easier to spend a Saturday afternoon refinishing an end table when you aren’t shuttling kids to basketball tournaments. And might those tulips get a little less love once a long weekend trip to Palm Springs is back in the picture? Plus many office workers who had more post-dinner puttering time will be returning to long daily commutes and business travel, leaving lots of half-finished house projects in their wake. This period of abnormally ample free time on weekends and evenings is about to expire.

Even if the home improvement boom doesn’t maintain its torrid 2020 pace, though, there’s certainly some room for optimism. First, many folks’ finances remain shaky, and hiring professionals is expensive. Nearly three-quarters of Americans expect their spending in the next three months to be the same or less than the previous three months. Financial caution could persist, and DIY remains much more affordable than DIFM.

While overall spending habits might stay conservative for a bit, projected home improvement spending looks healthy: consumers expect to spend more post-COVID on DIY home improvement projects, tied with “Eating Meals Out” for the #1 spot.

Those home improvers who are willing to invest this year may also have a bit more swagger walking down the hardware store aisles thanks to all the recent projects they’ve aced. Having built more confidence, they’ll be ready to build on those foundational skills. We may even see more people making and crafting holiday decor and gifts this year, following a 2020 when traditional crafts like sewing drove a big uptick in craft and hobby supply sales. With the recent launch of the Discovery+ streaming network, which includes HGTV and will include Chip and Joanna Gaines’ new Magnolia Network in 2022, there’ll be lots of fodder for renovation envy that could spark them to action, too.

Add in the hottest real estate market in 15 years, including lots of thrifty first time Millennial homeowners entering the market, and we see an opportunity to capture these folks while their energy and enthusiasm are high. Record high home prices mean buyers aren’t going to get everything they hoped for, so updates and renovations will be priority number one. Today’s burgeoning DIYer is a potential lifelong brand believer, so capturing them early is key.

The Upshot for Workshop and DIY Brands

If you’re a DIY brand looking to make sure the luster doesn’t fade as COVID impacts recede, consider these approaches:

Be an Empathetic Educator

Confidence is key. Don’t let new DIYers be intimidated. Be an ally who imparts wisdom and advice they need to step up their game. Houseplant D2C brand Leon and George publishes an engaging online magazine that includes how-to articles for budding indoor gardeners, plus lifestyle inspiration and user generated content. How can your brand be a mentor and inspire your customers to get the most from their projects, too?

Build Authentic Connections with Enthusiasts

When their typical social lives were upended, people moved online and connected with other like-minded folks, often uniting over shared hobbies and interests. Your brand can find ways to intersect with eager audiences, like Miracle-Gro recently did, with a recent promotion aimed at the houseplant obsessives who engage with the #plantparenthood hashtag.

Use Influencers to Broaden Horizons

Influencer partners are great at expanding customers’ idea of how and where they can use your products. In traditional print or TV ads you can only show a limited number of use cases, but influencers can generate a ton of approachable and inspiring lifestyle content, without the production costs of dozens of locations and set changes. Our longtime partner Duluth Trading Company uses their Wayforging Women ambassadors on their website and social channels to tell a richer tale of how their workwear performs in a wide variety of real world scenarios.

Create Milestones that Trigger Purchase

We’re already seeing brands in the DIY space looking to keep the magic alive. Stumbling into an unforeseen category boom is one thing, sustaining that momentum once the tailwinds taper is another. Coming off a record Q4, Ace Hardware engaged DIYers with a branded holiday promotional event. Ace dubbed April 3, “Some Day,” in honor of all the house projects people vow to do “someday,” but never get around to. By helping customers overcome the inertia and incentivizing them to tackle that project ASAP, Some Day helps further empower DIYers to see their skills as a lifetime pursuit, not a one-and-done endeavor.

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With diligence and ingenuity, there are plenty of near-term opportunities for workshop and DIY brands. In Part Two of this series, we’ll unpack the landscape for another COVID-era beneficiary: the outdoor recreation category.

Jeremy Cesarec is Planet Propaganda’s Communications Director

"But will this renewed DIY spirit lead to continued growth once competition for recreational dollars returns to normal?"

Tilda Swinton in a hardware store: the patron saint of all the reluctant DIYers who took on unfamiliar tasks in 2020.

"But will this renewed DIY spirit lead to continued growth once competition for recreational dollars returns to normal?"

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