Analyzing DIY market trends: statistics show DIY sales are dwindling in some key European markets.

Manufacturers and retailers of DIY paints in Europe are now under


even greater pressure to rethink their strategies in light of growing

evidence of a shift in attitudes to home decorating among consumers.

DIY sales are dwindling in some key European markets, partly as a

result of economic conditions but also because increasing numbers of

people are bringing in outsiders to do their decorating for them. The

future is looking particularly bright for the professional decorator in

Western Europe.

Consequently, paint producers and retailers, particularly the big

DIY chains, are in some cases having to reorganize their marketing

activities and restructure their distribution channels.

“The biggest area of change at the moment in the decorative

paint market is distribution, both among the paint manufacturers and the

retailers,” said Louis McCulloch, a partner in James Consulting,

Dorking, England.

“On average, across Western Europe, approximately 60% of

decorating is performed by professionals with the remainder being

DIY,” he explained. “The professionals are now increasing

their share. It is a gradual rather than dramatic change. But it does

mean that both the paint producers and the retailers are wanting to do

more to have a presence in the professional sector.”

Some of the large paint manufacturers have been stepping up the

expansion of their networks of localized decorative paint outlets for

professionals. Late last year Akzo Nobel continued a series of

acquisitions of distributors in Germany and neighboring countries when

it acquired the German wholesalers Wilhelm Lange Wabern and Farbe-Lange,

both specialist suppliers to professionals.

Sigma Kalon integrated last year its three distributors of

decorative paints to the French trade sector into a single network with

the name of Le Comptoir Seigneurie Gauthier. It has 180 outlets, the

largest in France, selling the top-range brand of Seigneurie, the

value-for-money Peintures Gauthier and the protective coating range


Paint producers have also been attempting to set up closer links

between householders and professional decorators. Akzo Nobel has been

pursuing a strategy in some markets of BIY–Buy it Yourself. Consumers

are encouraged to purchase paints to be applied in their homes by


Sigma Kalon has introduced a scheme in the Netherlands, where DIY

sales in the five years to 2004 fell by 21% by volume and 15% by value,

under which professionals come to people’s homes to advise them on

interior decoration.

“The professional does not necessarily do the painting but

helps the householder devise a color scheme and then choose the right

paints for the job,” explained a Sigma Kalon official. “The

scheme makes up for the lack of adequate advice available to consumers

in many DIY stores and encourages them to do more decorating than they

might otherwise have done.”

In the retail sector, the large DIY stores are continuing to

increase revenue by taking sales away from the smaller independents,

particularly in southern Europe where retailing is more fragmented than

in the northern part of the region. However, DIY stores are also seeking

growth in sales to professionals, usually through the creation of

specialist outlets and also by setting up hybrid stores to serve both

the professional and the serious DIY enthusiasts.

In the UK B&Q, the country’s largest DIY chain with a 24%

share of the market, has been offering in a pilot trial decorating

services at some of its stores to try to persuade more people to

undertake major projects in their homes.

A recent survey of home improvement in the UK by the mortgage bank

Halifax found that schemes like fitted kitchens and bedrooms and new

bathrooms have been slipping in popularity.

“When people are thinking of buying a kitchen or bathroom we

are offering to arrange to have the decorating done for them,”

explained a spokesman for Kingfisher, B&Q’s owner.

B&Q is also starting to establish in the UK a network of stores

for professionals. “DIY is our core business but we have to

recognize there is faster growth in the professionals sector at a time

when there is an increasing number of consumers who are cash rich and

time poor,” the spokesman added.

In France, where Kingfisher’s DIY Castorama chain is also a

market leader, the company has been boosting sales by enlarging its

network of Brico Depot outlets which provide large volumes but a limited

range of essential products for both professionals and the serious DIY


“Brico Depot is a low-cost operation with simple stores which

concentrate on being in stock, in volume and with the best possible

prices,” said Gerry Murphy, Kingfisher’s group chief


The forging of closer ties between the DIY and professional

segments has offered opportunities for specialist suppliers in the

construction market to move into the consumer sector. In the UK Travis

Perkins, a leading distributor of construction materials, recently

acquired the Wickes DIY retail chain.

“The attraction of the DIY market for building material

suppliers is that despite its slower growth it provides cash up

front,” said McCulloch. “In the market for professionals many

of the products have to be provided on credit.”

In both the UK and France, DIY sales in recent years have been

relatively buoyant. But now the bubble appears to be bursting. The UK

repair, maintenance and improvement market for homes has fallen to its

lowest level for 10 years, according to the country’s Office for

National Statistics. Figures from the Banque de France show DIY sales in

the country slowing to an annual rate of 0.8%, the lowest for over 12


Despite sluggish DIY sales and a large aging population in Germany,

the increase in business by the German professional operators has been

less noticeable than in some other countries in Western Europe. Instead

the slow growth has given the owners of DIY megastores, like Hornbach,

an opportunity to increase their share of total sales at the expense of

independent shops.

While the decorative market has been faltering in Western Europe,

it has been booming in Eastern Europe. Decorative paint sales in Poland

increased approximately 80% in volume in the first half of the current

decade, while in Russia the rise has been even faster.

Due to the influence of the communist era on the ways houses are

maintained, the long-term trend is the opposite to that in Western


In Russia, for example, there has traditionally been little scope

for DIY because homes were owned by the state which was responsible for

the maintenance, according to Murphy of Kingfisher, which is planning to

open 10-15 DIY stores in the country.

As a result, Russian householders tend to hire professionals to do

decorative and other work. But Murphy expects that Russian DIY sales

will grow as consumers gain sufficient confidence to do home improvement

jobs themselves.




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