DIY Tries to Woo Women

Feb 07, 2011

To appeal better to women, Home Depot has started offering Martha
Stewart curtains in hues of "tilled soil," paint in "cornbread,"
and rugs in colors like "Wilderstein brook trout."

To make shopping simpler
for women, nearly all Martha Stewart Living products carry an icon, such as
a moon or a star, to help coordinate and match items to room makeovers. Of
course, a more obvious part of the women’s push is the Martha Stewart line,
which debuted in late 2009 with patio furniture and has since expanded into
cabinets, draperies, carpets and paint. Lighting, vanity tables and bathroom
décor will be
added this spring.

With major renovations and big-ticket items stalled by a
slow housing recovery, smaller projects are the big focus for home improvement
stores and women are more of the target customer.

"For years, we’ve always had a bad — I don’t want to
say a bad reputation, it’s more that people look at our business and
think it is male-oriented, dominated," Gordon Erickson, the senior vice
president for merchandising and décor at Home Depot, told The New
York Times

"Fifty percent of our customers are female. We need to offer her products
that she wants."

Among other like chains, Lowe’s, which claims to 
have had a more women’s-oriented focus as part of its founding, designs its
stores with less steel and more wood tones, and "comfort zones" where
customers can review paint samples or remodeling plans.

another effort, True Value recently opened a corporate-owned store near Chicago
touting wider aisles, better lighting and clear signs.

The Times article points to
the challenges the DIY channel has creating a comfortable shopping environment
for women. Lauren Butler, who grew up helping her parents with home improvement
projects, told the Times she was pleased to see
that Home Depot had added Martha Stewart items at reasonable prices. But she
still often feels unwelcome in the DIY channel.

"Sometimes they seem to feel like you’re just a girl, you don’t
know what you’re doing, you need to get your husband in here," said
Ms. Butler. "It’s intimidating for any female to walk into a home
improvement store."

Discussion Questions: What more should home improvement stores be doing to better appeal to women? Is the problem more with products, ambience or service?

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11 Comments on "DIY Tries to Woo Women"

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Susan Rider
Susan Rider
10 years 3 months ago

HD can appeal to women better with experts that don’t talk down to women but do explain in layman’s terms how something is done. A database of regional resources certified by HD. Better trained associates would be a plus. Recently, I went to HD to find a simple item. I was told by the associate they didn’t carry it, so I went to an aisle to find possibly a substitute, and there the item was on the end cap!! Could have been a missed opportunity.

Paula Rosenblum
10 years 3 months ago

Actually, I first became re-engaged in the world of Home Depot during the depths of the recession. I was first lured back into the store by their pitch perfect advertising. While Lowe’s was still running ads showing a harried husband being forced by his wife and daughter to replace the roof, put up a fence, buy a new swing set, etc. Home Depot ran ads showing women re-painting their living rooms. And introduced that silly paint plus primer product (which is still marketing genius).

I went to a store and discovered the floors had been sealed, aisles widened, and oh-my-God…associates actually talked to me instead of running away.

The only thing that was “off” was the product selection. Another victim of SKU rationalization, the number of choices in many departments was just too thin.

So…long story short, the “Martha effect” is the next step back on the long road to HD’s recovery. Frank Blake and his team really do deserve a round of applause.

Carol Spieckerman
10 years 3 months ago
I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in Home Depot’s service over the past several months and I do think service is critical in the big box home improvement space. The footprints are huge, much of the merch is out of plain sight, and fewer visits (especially from women), make the terrain more disorienting than more frequently-shopped stores. Although signage isn’t often mentioned as a key element for wooing women, I understood the potential impact after visiting Canadian home improvement retailer, Rona. Smiling, capable, tool-wielding women are prominently featured in signage throughout the store which immediately sent the message “You belong here” without a hint of condescension. Making the Martha Stewart brand a big bet at Home Depot could achieve a similar impact. The icon coding system is a great way to drive cross-category shopping and to encourage familiarity with the full Home Depot experience in the process. The only thing that would take it up a notch would be to have dedicated Martha Stewart specialists onsite. The HD associates that I’ve worked with lately have been… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
10 years 3 months ago

One thing that some female-focused retailers have done is to create a play space for kids. IKEA has done this with great success, empowering parents to take their time walking around the store. THD might want to pilot this and see what they find.

Robin Hoover
Robin Hoover
10 years 3 months ago

As a women who has worked in the wholesale Home Improvement Industry for over 20 years and also as a DIY’er who funded and made final materials and design selections for our extensive home remodel, I offer this summation: be in stock, be at the right price, be aware that I now do my research online before I walk in your store so be prompt, polite, and honest if you don’t know something; be respectful of my money and my buying power and DON’T think that the #1 reason I buy a hand or power tool is because your Buyer brought in a pink one. If your Buyer is savvy, they’ll bring in ergonomic product that suits my hand and lifting ability that is also functional. Oh yeah…and clean your bathrooms…Uck!

Gordon Arnold
10 years 3 months ago

It has become commonplace to blame store associates for poor performance of product or services when this is not entirely the cause. The Martha Stewart product line may be priced so far beyond market threshold that performance is in fact stunted by price comparisons.

Projects that women can do themselves should be hosted and demonstrated by women with audience participation used as a means of performance validation. Finding men and women with the ability to quickly learn feature and benefit selling as well as product and project demonstration gets a little tricky when this goal is shackled with poverty pay scales.

A close examination of inventory turns as well as aged inventory reports would lead to an investigation of the success rate of executive management decisions vs. the current 5 year plan.

Lee Peterson
10 years 3 months ago

It’d be optimal if DIY stores enhanced the graphics and wayfinding through simplification and touched up the overall environments (shop within the shop?), but the real ‘get’ is to provide better service. In many cases, just having someone to talk to would be a giant leap.

IMHO, the recession will turn out to be a very good thing for DIY retailers in that it’s actually forcing them to become retailers vs. warehouse owners. In the long run, this shift will allow them to grow their business in a meaningful way. In other words, not just through store openings.

Gina Rau
Gina Rau
10 years 3 months ago

Home Depot targeting women goes hand-in-hand with all the recent chatter about the need for grocery retailers to speak to men in their marketing efforts. The economic recession has turned traditional gender roles upside down, just like the industrial revolution did. Retailers and brands, more than ever before, need to truly know who’s buying their product and ensure they’re engaging the right consumer, which may not be the shopper they targeted just a few years ago.

Smart move by Home Depot. I’ve always loved their stores, but I’m a DIY junkie.

Ted Hurlbut
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 3 months ago

My observation is that DIY stores that want to increase their appeal to women need to focus on the results of projects rather than merely the process.

Process is an intrinsic aspect of any DIY project. Men (at the risk of over-generalizing) are primarily focused on the process; how to do the job, and the tools and materials needed to get it done. That has historically been the focus and the strength of retailers like HD (when they’ve executed well).

Women (again, at the risk of over-generalizing) tend to be more focused on the result. What will the room look like when we’re all done? What will the benefit be from this investment? Will this really solve our problem?

I think DIY retailers who are able to focus on results, benefits and problem-solving, and clearly demonstrate those things visually and experientially, will benefit. There’s tremendous opportunity here for vignetting, in-store media, and other tools and techniques to increase the appeal of these stores to women.

Ralph Jacobson
10 years 3 months ago

More and more women are trying DIY and finding that not only do they like working around the house, but they are pretty good at it. We don’t need to talk down to women. Retailers need to recognize the female shoppers they already have and find out what kind of projects they are doing and offer solutions to cater to them. Hand tools that are easy-to-use. Creative ideas in the front of the store. Don’t make them hunt for ideas.

Lindsay Carpen
Lindsay Carpen
10 years 3 months ago

If we are talking about profiling here, I would venture that you can’t be everything to everybody. For those women who are serious DIYers, I think that they want the same things that men in a similar situation (Men who don’t do contracting or construction for a living). It sounds to me like this is talking more about “design” instead of just “entry level DIY” though and that would be a pretty big stretch for a Home Depot (whether from a men’s or women’s perspective). If there is a concept out there, I think it is Design Expo or something similar that would be a better format for a designer. If you are a “doer” and not a “designer” though–you go to Home Depot.


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