Attendees of the 2012 Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Spring Conference in Arlington, Va., were promised insights and resources. And even before the last of seven speakers packed up his PowerPoint, the mission was accomplished.
For instance, Mike Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association shared that the U.S. economy seemed to be on the path to a self-sustaining recovery, an assessment he qualified with a “but” and an “and.”
“The ‘but’ is that the U.S. economy is more impacted by global events than we ever have been,” Fratantoni said. Greece and Spain cause concern. But what really keeps him up at night is the idea of “difficulties with Iran and the potential spike in oil prices.”
NPD Research’s Kevin Gilbert pointed to some of the big product category winners in 2011, based on its Consumer Tracking Service. Riding mowers increased 41%, electric saws increased 33%, and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors increased 25%.
Then there’s the insight from IHS Global Insight’s James Gillula, who predicted an annual increase in consumer market home improvement products of 5.4% in 2012, following an increase of 4.1% in 2010. The professional market is expected to grow too, with a 4.0% gain in 2012, compared with a 2.9% gain in 2011.
The all-day event held April 18 at the DoubleTree Hotel Crystal City in Arlington, Va., also included presentations from the U.S. Census Bureau on the American FactFinder tool, TNS and the 2012 Product Purchase Tracking Study, and a Stevenson Co. presentation on the paths consumers take before making a decision.
The short story from several of macroeconomic presenters was that the economy is growing. The slightly longer story: The economy is growing, but not very fast. Related to the macroeconomic growth is the all-important unemployment rate. Fratantoni said the Mortgage Bankers Association forecast calls for a slow improvement, from 8.6% at press time, to 8.0% by the end of the year, and further slow improvement to 7.5% by the end of 2013.
Consumer insights factored heavily, including the unpleasant trend of showrooming. NPD’s Gil