A snapshot view across Home Decor Services in 2020
Back in mid march I wrote a post here on how Corona Virus would affect the interior design industry. None of us could really predict the impact it would actually have on the world. Indeed there are still many unknowns in this journey into the new normal. The home decor industry post pandemic has seen many changes. Businesses and the people they support both as employers and product and service providers continue to navigate uncharted waters.
Now months later, at the start of a new year, I’m revisiting that post to see how things are with the benefit of hindsight. Did my predictions come true? What did we learn? What processes are now rooted in our business practice from what we’ve learnt over 2021? How has the landscape of interior design and the home decor industry post pandemic changed?
Firstly in our day to day working across every industry things came to a complete standstill as everyone worked out how we would manage this. Zoom and google hangouts became our best friends as we forged new ways to communicate with each other. Slowly things picked up. For the main part, the home decor industry post pandemic is fortunate enough to not only continue trading but to see an upturn in activity.
I’ve taken a look back over the past few months to see what the numbers say. I’ve also asked clients and colleagues in the industry how they fared during this challenging time. Read on to find out more.
Home decor consumer behaviour during the pandemic
Comscore tracks consumer behaviour online. Their May report on the home improvement category saw a huge increase across the EU 5 in both online shopping and use of home/architecture websites and apps. You can see from the stats here there was a considerable increase in interest across the home decor category.
What did this mean in UK? Houzz, the online platform that connects home renovators with interior designers, professional tradespeople and home decor suppliers reported huge surges in the use of the platform during the first lockdown with some of their busiest ever periods. Year on year reports for August saw home renovation pros receive 102% more enquires than in the previous year. Many product categories also saw huge increases. One surprising statistic from the Houzz report was in the flooring category. There was a 1,500% increase in leads for flooring installers in August 2020 in comparison to August 2019, and a 370% year-on-year rise for carpet and flooring supplier leads. Demand for tiles also rose by an incredible 5,300%!
How did home decor suppliers adapt in the home decor industry post pandemic?
So I spoke to a flooring supplier – Nick Bounds of Naked Floors told me, “We’ve been trading for 18 years and through that period have had 2 or 3 recessions each of which just made us work harder and become more determined to carry on at what we do best.”
“However when Covid19 first kicked in we did get slightly nervous as existing customers postponed their orders. People were very cautious and they simply didn’t want tradespeople entering their homes.”
“Initially enquiries from all angles simply dried up to zero in the first few weeks. What many people didn’t realise is that we were classed as an essential business. A vital part of the construction supply chain so we were allowed to carry on trading. We made sure we communicated we were open and ready for business. With the required safety measures in place we were able to continue with business as usual.
However some customers were anxious about visiting. Having read so much about Covid in the news and as they’d barely left their homes since the start of lockdown we did our best to put them at ease. Adhering to the safety protocols and communicating how we were able to serve them with the restrictions in place. Fortunately for us there has been no supply chain issues. We are a local manufacturer and don’t rely on foreign imports. We’re proud to source sustainably lowering our carbon footprint and benefitting the local economy. We’re pleased to say that we now benefit from the increase in demand for quality locally produced goods.”
Home Decor and independent retail
I also spoke to Sam Moseley from custom table makers Grain and Frame, a relatively new business who were growing fast when the pandemic hit.
“The business was performing well in March and we were on target to have our best month to date. However, no one could have predicted that we would be facing a global pandemic. The first lockdown meant all of our suppliers shut which meant we couldn’t make our tables.”
“We decided to see this as an opportunity to take a step back and look at improvements we could make to the business. We immediately paused all of our paid ad spend but continued to invest in our marketing activities. At the time, we were struggling with the functionality of our website and the platform that it was built on. We knew this would limit our long-term success. We used this quiet period to build an entirely new website to help improve our rankings on Google and increase the amount of organic traffic to the site, which we were hopeful over time would increase enquiries for our tables.”
“Since our new site went live, we have tripled the number of new visitors to the Grain and Frame website. This is still increasing each week. In fact October was our best month in terms of sales which is a direct result of this investment.”
This approach is typical of businesses we worked with at My Deco Marketing over 2020. Increasing online visibility is key to success. The home decor industry post pandemic saw a clear customer shift. Not only to just researching but actually purchasing goods online as the high street became inaccessible, or else people simply preferred to stay at home. We’re seeing an increasing investment in SEO, content marketing and organic and paid social media strategies across Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Becoming more visible online is paying off in bringing in customers as more people shop from home.
Designers making a difference
During the year many in the home decor industry used their design and business skills to help others, especially to support our NHS workers. Read my blog on designers making a difference to discover more. Anna Hayman Designs is one of these. Anna’s business covers both interior design projects and home decor products, Anna told me…
“The impact of Covid in March on Anna Hayman Designs has meant that our interior design side of the business which was just emerging, had to hit pause. With the retail customer spending more time at home, however, over the Summer the product side has boomed, with some of our best months to date being during 2020. We have been outsourcing work to those unable to earn, to try to help the situation and utilise unused skills. We also raised £4000 through selling Art Prints for local NHS meals to try to give back.
Through the Autumn we have added more product lines, developed a new website and grown the business, and feel extremely lucky to have done so.
The question remains what will come in 2021, and we are hopeful that homeowners will continue to invest in their homes, as we have all had to connect with our spaces in more meaningful way. A lot of people find pattern very calming, so we hope we can continue to create sanctuaries from an ever changing world!”
Home decor on the high street
Next let’s check in with one of the UK’s largest retailers. I asked Suzanne Knight, Sales Manager for Property for John Lewis & Partners Business how the pandemic affected their home decor offering.
“The year 2020 has brought so much change across Britain and globally. Here at the John Lewis Partnership we have been at the heart of equipping people and their homes to accommodate what has quickly become known as ‘ the new norm’.”
“We couldn’t have dreamt of a time when we would have had to close our branches, but we appreciated the need to do so and quickly rallied to reallocate our resource to our grocery business, Waitrose & Partners as the immediate demand was focused on stocking the nation’s cupboards.”
“In the weeks ahead the needs expanded as we saw uplift in sales at John Lewis where our customers were embracing hobbies from needlecraft to stargazing. Our fashion sales shifted to sportswear and the accompanying equipment as gyms closed and many people used the opportunity to focus on health.”
“We evolved many of our in store advice into a virtual service and had 5830 appointments with almost half focused on homeware. Here we have helped people carve out new spaces, seeing sales of bunkbeds increase as siblings share rooms allowing for a home office , in addition to the investment in pieces such as rugs and freestanding shelves allowing households to zone open plan areas to allow for function led spaces such as a home classroom. “
“In John Lewis & Partners Business we serve companies in their procurement needs and in lockdown technology was initially the core purchase as workforces shift to working from home. Beyond that we worked closely with other trade customers including those in the property sector, most notably Interior Designers and Home Staging who balanced where they could, current projects but all also revised the needs of past clients equipping them with home offices and garden furniture as they embraced outdoor living.”
We evolved our at service John Lewis & Partners Business specifically for Interior Designers and Home Stagers purchasing via our team by lowering the minimum spend and increasing our trade discount exclusively for this audience. This has been very welcome to this base as many have had to pause all business so very much are looking to maximise all commercial gain in the months ahead in what will always be a memorable year for all. Contact Suzanne Knight to find out more about their services
Interior Designers and the new normal
So far it’s clear to see people focusing on their homes and investing in their interiors during these undertain times. With this in mind we saw interior designers having to manage their projects under new and challenging circumstances.
Cat Hoad of interior design and project management Absolute Project Management explains how this year unfolded for her business.
“With multiple projects in progress at the time of the first lockdown we quickly adapted in order to continue serving our clients. Our team decamped to work from home and zoom meetings became the norm. As construction is in the class of essential business the sites were open. We were able to visit our projects and liaise with clients and contractors taking the proper safety precautions. However it was not without it’s challenges. With workshops closures and high demand for building materials longer lead times became inevitable.
As well as this progress on site is slower. Contractors are working with fewer tradespeople on the team to allow for social distancing. Now more than ever we are advising planning ahead and engaging specialist services as early as possible to avoid delays when starting your renovation project. With an increase in demand we’ve been able to leverage our longstanding relationships across the build and design industry to ensure our projects run smoothly through these challenging times”
A boost for home stagers
At the start of the first lockdown estate agents closed their doors and house sales slowed. At first interior designers and home stagers had no access to properties due to lockdown restrictions. However then another boost for the home decor industry post pandemic came in July. In the chancellor’s Summer statement, an announcement of a Stamp Duty holiday until March 2021.
I spoke to Jane Lee of Jane Lee Interiors to discover how this affected her home staging business.
“When the housing market shut down, my work inevitably slowed to a trickle. With no kids to home school I found myself spending (a lot) more time on Instagram, with unexpected consequences …
Three weeks in, an estate agent whose blog post I’d shared on my stories messaged me. Would I take part in their video series, talking about lockdown-friendly ways to get properties ready to sell? Absolutely! Even better, they’re now recommending me to all their customers.
Then there was Zoom. Clients are more open to video consultations now, something I’ll continue to promote as I can work further afield.
With the housing market back on track, buoyed by the stamp duty holiday, staging is back in demand. Apart from minor product sourcing issues, due to limited stock and slower delivery times – and nearly passing out behind my mask in the heatwave – for now things are feeling more normal.”
Interior Design Events
Finally one of the things we miss most is simply connecting with people. Some of our biggest design events including Decorex and Focus/20 from the Chelsea Design Centre had to happen online. This has been the year of Zoom. I’ve found it a great way to connect with people when I couldn’t be out and about. Debbie Blott founder of The Decorcafe Network for interiors and creative businesses says this year the ability to connect online is more important than ever.
“Our network is founded on connecting through interiors inspired creative events. In 2021 we were looking forward to private house tours of homes featured on Grand Designs. In-store events with the high street’s best loved interiors brands we’re also on the schedule. However that all changed in March when we suddenly we had to make a move to online meetings. Instead of just once a month there was a high demand to stay connected. We quickly moved to busy almost weekly members meetings of our interiors and creatives community. We’re now welcoming new members every week as interior designers, independent business owners and larger brands look to find new ways to connect through building connected communities online.”
Moving on to 2021
So there you have it a little round up across our industry for 2020. Looking back at my original blog from March I don’t think anyone would have predicted some of these outcomes. Moving in to 2021 I feel blessed to be part of an industry where we were still able to trade for most of the year. I feel 2020 proves two things
- Home as a place of sanctuary is more important than ever.
- The internet as a place to trade, connect and communicate is more important than ever.
The technology, skills and knowledge in the space that connects these two important places is exactly where my business sits. I’m hopeful of good things and I wish you all the best for 2021.