The home improvement retail chain Lowe’s has announced a hiring spree of 50,000 front-line workers this spring in addition to $80 million in bonuses to their existing team of front-line workers in North American stores. Rival chain Home Depot has not made any such announcement in 2021, though last year they announced a more ambitious goal of hiring 80,000 employees around this time.
While the timing may have sunk other retail chains, coming just before nationwide coronavirus lockdowns, home improvement stores actually saw higher sales in 2020 for the exact same reason: spending more time at home motivated customers to tackle more renovation projects. Specifically, consumers are seeking to repurpose existing spaces within their homes, reorganize home storage such as closets and garages and increase focus on improving outdoor living spaces.
Many other retail chains have had to explore alternatives to in-store shopping, such as various forms of e-commerce and delivery partnerships, but both Lowe’s and Home Depot already had BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) systems in place. Home Depot’s digital sales rose 80% YoY in Q3 of 2020 while Lowe’s more than doubled at 106%.
Predictions for 2021
With vaccines from a few different manufacturers rolling out, some are doubtful that this home improvement craze will continue. However, experts predict that the focus will remain on at-home categories through most of the year, with a shift to away-from-home goods and services towards the end of the year. Lowe’s conducted a study in December 2020, which indicated that 51% of respondents said they “have bigger plans” for their homes than a year ago and 56% are looking to learn how to take on a new home improvement project. 40% of consumers reported that they had started a new hobby involving tools or home improvement.
The American South is already seeing a hike in foot traffic, which is fortunate for Home Depot because of their strong concentration there. Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas are currently the top 3 states for foot traffic, and at the bottom are California, Washington and Vermont, with New York just above them. Lowe’s is spread more evenly across the South, Midwest and Northeast regions.
Another major difference between the two chains is Home Depot’s relationship with professional home contractors, which is responsible for 45% of their sales and explains their #1 rank in the category. Lowe’s has indicated that they are moving in this direction, in addition to growing their e-commerce segment.
If these retail giants are any indication, home improvement and home goods are a safe bet for the foreseeable future–especially products for the outdoors as spring comes around. Brick-and-mortars in these categories may enjoy continued success with digital sales and socially distanced pick-up options. Other categories may want to keep an eye on foot traffic trends to plan ahead.
It’s important that hiring processes align with safety concerns as well. Home Depot was fortunate to have introduced a smartphone app for job applications in 2018. It reduced application time to 15 minutes on average and the chain saw a 50% boost in people applying for positions. Providing digital options for applying, interviewing and onboarding are likely to increase your pool of applicants.