Fingers crossed at DIY stores

Spring turns us into home-improvement enthusiasts - good news for retailers on the long road out of recession

At Easter, gardeners and DIY enthusiasts stumble bleary-eyed from their winter hibernation and discover that the lawnmower doesn't work, the fence needs fixing and the sitting room redecorating.

That often means a trip to the local DIY store. Big chains such as B&Q and Homebase will be laying on a welcome for what they call their Christmas. Each giant store can make up to half of a year's sales over the Easter holiday.

B&Q has the biggest share of the pounds 7.7bn DIY products market. It opened four of its stores overnight on Thursday to cater to those people - a fifth of the population, if a B&Q survey is to be believed - with a penchant for doing-it-themselves in the small hours of the morning. Night owls were treated to live music and dance and promotions such as a free pounds 80 electric shower with every bath suite bought between 4am and 6am.

Last Easter B&Q sold 32 million litres of compost, 2.5 million litres of paint, 300,000 growing bags, 600,000 paving slabs, 6,000 barbecues and 660,000 rolls of wallpaper - enough to paper 110,000 rooms. The company hopes to do better this year.

Good weather helps showcase gardening goods and plants. Homebase managing director Ross MacLaren says trying to sort out the timing so the plants all arrive at the store when they are supposed to, all the while watching the weather, "makes people go grey".

Big sales are expected of lawnmowers, forks, spades, shears, paint, wallpaper and creosote. Homebase will offer holders of its loyalty cards 10 per cent off everything, while shoppers have a chance to win trips on Concorde and ocean cruises from scratch cards, even if they don't buy anything.

About 60 per cent of shoppers at B&Q's stores are men, although more women are expected over Easter because "women are the major influence behind decorating decisions". Men, it seems, are the ones who actually buy the products.

Families won't find much in the way of entertainment for the kids. None of the stores plans to match the likes of home furnishing chain Ikea with its restaurant, resident clowns and play room full of multi-coloured plastic balls and stuffed animals.

Large stores are banned from opening on Easter Sunday. Although Sunday trading laws were abolished three years ago, stores over 280sq m are still prevented from opening. However. this prohibition may be crumbling. B&Q used the results of a survey it conducted in February to press its case for being allowed to open. It has since received permission from Arun District Council in Sussex and 10 other districts to open the garden centres attached to 11 of its stores today as long as till points remain outside and no part of the store itself is used as selling space. The survey found that 56 per cent of respondents who plan to shop at Easter want to buy DIY goods, but most are not aware that superstores will be shut today.

DIY retailers could do with a good Easter as they slowly recover from a slump in 1995. B&Q is leading the way, with its 14 per cent sales increase helping parent company Kingfisher report a 25 per cent rise in profit in the past year. Homebase is seeing better sales as its parent company J Sainsbury attempts to integrate it with its existing Texas chain. Homebase sales rose 16 per cent in the last fiscal year.

Part of the reason for the improvement is a pick-up in the housing market, where prices have risen 9 per cent in the last year, according to Nationwide Building Society. DIY chains, however, emphasise this is only one factor. There is evidence that bonus payouts from building societies converting to banks, plus money from maturing Tessas, are going towards decorating. However, hard evidence linking DIY sales to a housing boom is still hard to come by.

That will make for a nerve-racking four days for managers as they wait and see just how much shoppers are willing to fork out on their homes.

Homebase's Mr MacLaren said: "I won't be a happy Easter Bunny until I've seen how the sales went on Tuesday."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before