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Critical Lessons Learned During the Pandemic

Through every challenge we face, personally, professionally or as a society, sometimes the best thing you can do is look back on it as a learning experience. At least that’s what I tell my kids.

When you consider what we have all been through during the past 18 months with the pandemic (not to mention some of the other things thrown in our direction), there is certainly a lot we can learn.

Rather than broadening this article to cover all the things we can learn from the last year and a half about humanity, humility or other loftier subjects, I will focus on what I think our industry learned.


Consumers will always love their homes.

We have seen this time and again. In my 25 years in this industry, during wars, public unrest, terrorism scares, recessions and now pandemics, consumers retreat to their homes. They feel safe in their homes. And when nothing else in the world seems like it is certain, consumers will invest in the place where they live, relax and raise their families. 

What this means to us…

We are in a great industry, but I shouldn’t have to tell you that. We have been given a very unique opportunity because, for a short window of time, consumers will continue to seek solace in their homes and invest in them accordingly. Add to that the fact that we have a strong housing market and you have a combination of circumstances that we might never see again (at least in our careers). Companies in the home improvement industry who choose to sit on the sidelines right now and not do everything they can to ride this wave of home improvement activity are MISSING OUT. 

NOW is the time to unveil new products. NOW is the time to market your products and lines. NOW is the time to be bold in your strategies and make the most of this white-hot market.


The concept of “home” will never be the same.

Home has and will always be a safe place for consumers, but in this last year and a half, we have seen the entire concept of the home change. The definition of a home and its function is now the broadest it has ever been. It is a place to unwind, but it is also now a place for entertainment. A school. An office. A place to heal. Trends were already headed in this direction, but the pandemic hastened the curve. 

What this means to us…

Because a home is now so many things to so many people, it means that there is an even broader market for home improvement products. From products that make the home a safer place to products that make the home more enjoyable or functional, consumers are in “buy it now” mode! Products tied to trends like aging in place, self-care, home technology, outdoor living, at-home luxury and more are driving the market, and consumers are spending their disposable income to make investments in these areas. So, whether your company offers traditional home improvement items or products that fit into some of these newer areas, NOW is the time to share your offerings to retailers! It is imperative that you and the retailers who sell your products get them to market quickly to take advantage of the opportunities out there. 


Consumers will never shop the same way again.

I have no doubt that once the pandemic subsides, consumers will head back out and start visiting stores more regularly. At the same time, so many consumers were introduced to the convenience of online shopping, order delivery and curbside pickup, that they will never abandon these conveniences and go back to the way things were. Our industry has adapted well to this reality but must continue to evolve to meet these changing needs. 

What this means to us…

Independent home improvement retailers adapted well during the pandemic by adding things like curbside pickup, e-commerce and beefing up areas like social media and loyalty programs. But they will have to continue in these efforts, and they will need help from the manufacturing and distribution communities. Product images, descriptions and other content that they can push to consumers in their markets will all become increasingly important commodities. And for vendors and service providers, the ability to provide these kinds of value-added benefits to retailers could offer distinct points of difference between competitors. The challenge for many manufacturers is letting retailers know that you can offer these kinds of tools to them. The most effective way to do this is through a comprehensive marketing effort!

Author avatar

Dan Tratensek

In his position as executive vice president of publishing of Hardware Retailing magazine, Dan has the opportunity to visit with independent retailers of all types and sizes and use these visits to shape the editorial direction of the magazine to meet the needs of the independent hardware retail market. Dan also oversees NHPA’s other publishing projects, which include a range of special interest publications, contract publishing titles, online content and more. Dan formerly worked as an editor and reporter for Hardware Retailing and has been involved in business journalism and news reporting for the past two decades.

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