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News I published 15 June 2023

Why the trend towards more outsourcing has turned to more do-it-yourself

There are two ways to approach a home improvement project: do it yourself or hire someone else to do it. For many years, there was a growing trend in the European market of outsourcing more and more tasks, resulting in a decrease in the number of projects that people tackled themselves. However, this trend has recently been reversed.

Many recent changes in the do-it-yourself market can be attributed to the effects of the pandemic that we have all experienced, including the significant increase in home improvement projects in 2020 and 2021. However, it would be too simplistic to solely blame COVID-19 for the shift from outsourcing to more do-it-yourself projects, as indicated by the results of the European Home Improvement Monitor conducted by USP Consultancy.

The trend began before COVID-19

For almost a decade, the balance between do-it-yourself projects and outsourced tasks in the European market has been measured. Previously, there was a slow but steady trend towards increased outsourcing and a gradual decline in the share of do-it-yourself projects. The reasons for this trend were diverse, but demographics played a significant role.

As the average age of the population increased, older generations became less capable of doing tasks they used to handle themselves. Meanwhile, the younger generation of consumers showed less interest on average in do-it-yourself activities, resulting in a net decrease in do-it-yourself projects and an increase in outsourcing. Additionally, the market situation was still accommodating in the sense that labor shortages did not yet play a major role, making outsourcing an affordable option.

However, as our results show, the percentage of outsourced tasks reached its peak in 2018 and began to decline thereafter. Since then, the share of do-it-yourself projects has steadily increased and continues to rise. It is important to note that there was no pandemic in 2018 and 2019. Therefore, the reversal of the trend from outsourcing to do-it-yourself projects cannot be attributed to the COVID-19 crisis alone.

Lockdowns may have acted as a catalyst

Although the pandemic may not have been the cause, it is known to have had a significant impact on the do-it-yourself market. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, more consumers were confined to their homes and unable to spend money on outings or vacations. This meant they had more reasons, time, and budget to engage in home improvement projects.

As a result, the number of projects that consumers undertook in their homes increased significantly. Additionally, many people who would not typically attempt such projects themselves started doing DIY work during the pandemic. This allowed them to gain some experience, increase their self-confidence, and perhaps find enjoyment and pride in completing projects on their own.

We know that there is a strong correlation between the amount of DIY experience and the likelihood of someone tackling projects themselves instead of outsourcing them. It is likely that people who started engaging in DIY projects during the pandemic have continued to do so. Therefore, while the pandemic may not have caused the shift towards more do-it-yourself projects, it did serve as a catalyst for that trend.

Labor shortages are the key factor

So, if COVID-19 did not cause the trend reversal, what did? The predominant reason is that in the years leading up to the pandemic, labor shortages were becoming more pronounced in the construction and renovation sectors, resulting in higher labor costs. This prompted many consumers to start doing home improvement projects themselves, saving on labor costs and investing in materials instead. This was also true for the older generation, who continued to engage in projects for longer than expected.

At our latest measurement point, by the end of 2022, we see that the trend towards more do-it-yourself projects is still ongoing. Meanwhile, labor shortages are even more significant than before the pandemic, and inflation and high material

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