The recession has breathed new life into doing it ourselves. Whether it's home cooking, sewing, entertaining at home, or home repair, consumers of all ages are doing more of it. As home sales have dropped off a cliff, home center stores like Lowe's and Home Depot have repositioned themselves away from home improvement and toward home repair.
Our work in the category shows these two locked in a battle for share. A year ago, Home Depot looked to be on the decline but more recently has been resurgent in multiple markets. We conducted research with homeowners this Spring that showed Home Depot was distinctive in its appeal to 30-year old homeowners. Teaching homeowners to rely on the home center when they're young is a strategy for assuring customer loyalty as they grow up.
Yesterday, the Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity International announced they are expanding their Partners in Sustainable Building program into a $30 million, five-year effort to construct at least 5,000 homes to meet Energy Star guidelines, or even higher green building standards. Given millennial interest in doing good and all things green, this promotion may grow and strengthen Home Depot's hold on this prized target. As Carol Phillips pointed out in a recent blog post: "Gen. Y is on track to become the greenest and most humanitarian generation in U.S. history. If one wants to do business with them they had better be very green and very nice to their fellow mankind."
In a category where merchandise and store experience are largely the same, social conscience and social responsibility may help consumers tell brands apart. Could be good news for causes, and brands that embrace them.