BHETA comment: Work in progress for the tools market

BHETA Home Enhancement Director Paul Grinsell debates the pros and cons of two different approaches to the tools market…

It’s a new year and Cologne is in sight, so what are the prospects for 2018/19? One of the many things BHETA is very good at is providing its members with market intelligence and the sort of credible up to the minute data on which decisions can safely be made. So, what are the predictions for the tools market and how can manufacturers and distributors capitalise?

The good news is that the tools market is predicted to grow. On the other hand, its growth is very much smaller than that of quite a few other sectors in the home and garden improvement market. In the short term, the significant growth is in two areas – decorative and outdoor space. Clearly this is good news for paint applicators and small electricals, but does not go much beyond this. Moreover, of the four main tools retailers expected to grow, two of them are Wilko and B&M, which tends to reinforce the trend for consumers to trade down towards the cheaper and more disposable.

Slightly longer term, housebuilding is predicted to pick up which will help heavyside, and also the premium end of the tools market, but that is likely to be tomorrow and not today.

So, the question is how best to create growth – especially if you want to protect brand values and maintain quality and premium price. Tools are especially tricky in that they are never the end result, only the means, so even in an active home and garden improvement market, it’s still a challenge to convince end users that quality is worth the investment.

So, while cheap and cheerful is a viable route to sales growth, branded suppliers need to continue making the case for quality products as the route to better results, achieved more quickly, with less stress and fewer mistakes and comebacks. It is all about the right tool for the right job to ensure that the market can grow at every level.

We need not only to get real overall, but also to target consciously and clearly. Firstly, by accepting that there is a market for the cheap and cheerful and disposable, however much this contradicts values, skills, investment and environmental concerns. Secondly, by investing in the marketing and communications needed to convince and inspire consumers that the product standards required by the professional trade are worth the extra cost in terms of added benefits. The two other retailers predicted to do well are Wickes and Screwfix. Professional tools marketed to consumers is a challenging strategy, but can be lucrative and massively beneficial to a brand, when it is backed sufficiently.

These two contrasting routes are not mutually exclusive given an appropriate and rigorous brand strategy. Market data predictions suggest this approach is worth exploring.

BHETA, the British Home Enhancement Trade Association is an organisation for manufacturers, suppliers and distributors in the DIY, housewares, garden and home improvement markets. For more information about BHETA membership call 0121 237 1130.

Previous BHETA columns for Torque:

This article was originally published in the February 2018 edition of Torque Magazine. Read the full magazine online here or subscribe for free