OAK BROOK, ILL. —The diverse nature of the seven home improvement research presentations delivered rapid fire during a content-packed conference here at Hamburger University, Mc Donald Corp.’s state-of-the-art conference facility, prevented an overriding theme from emerging. But over-hanging each Power Point, the economy loomed.
Ranging from green building to banking to aging in place, the 27th Annual Fall Conference of the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) had something for everyone. Falling under the umbrella title of “Understanding the Future of Home Improvement,” the diverse slate of presentations took on various degrees of optimism, pessimism and—in the case of an aging-in-place discussion—opportunism.
J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich, kicked off the proceedings with an optimistic look at market trends. After describing the current economic down turn as a “short-term period of difficulty,” Smith pointed to data that showed consumers are planning to follow through on roughly the same number of home improvement projects that were planned a year ago.
Consumers today are planning 2.8 projects, the median figure, with the median spending on all projects planned at about $1,320. That is down from 3.4 projects and spending of $1,535 a year ago. Those figures formed the basis for Smith’s optimism. “Despite the economy, consumers are still involved in this market-place,” he said. “There is still an opportunity to do some business.”
Competition for that spending, however, will increase among suppliers and retailers, he said.
On the Yankelovich list of future projects, gardening or landscaping was mentioned by the most respondents—50 percent. And median spending on lawn and garden project s was expected to be $250.
On the home renovation front, Smith said more people in 2008 said they plan to live in their current home through retirement—up from 56 percent in 2006 to 64 percent in 2008. Among boomers, the change is even greater—up from 56 percent in 2006 to 69 percent in 2008.
“They’re not looking for a new home, they’re looking for home improvements,” Smith said.
Louis Tenenbaum, an authority on the trend of aging in place, reported that 80 percent of people over 45 want to stay in the home of their choice, even when they need assistance. That points to the need for projects around the home—particularly a round the bathroom, kitchen and