RG Construction

Thanks to the pandemic, DIY became the ‘new normal’

Why pay when there’s YouTube?
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It seems that a lot of people became a lot more comfortable with DIY during the pandemic.

With help from YouTube, kitchens and bathrooms were given upgrades, garden beds were built, floors were laid and tons of furniture refinished.

It’s ongoing at both Masters Home Centre and Baptiste Ltd.

Sacha Bearden, Baptiste’s chief executive officer and owner, said people often come into the Warwick store fired up with ideas of things they’ve seen online.

“The university of YouTube makes people pretty fearless – there’s so many things that you can get done,” she said.

“People are definitely becoming bolder with finishes; people are recognising that they can do lots of little things themselves to jazz up their space without having to do an entire renovation.”

It’s not unusual for someone to walk in searching for an item they’ve pulled up on their phone. If Baptiste doesn’t have exactly what they’re looking for there is likely to be something that’s “pretty darn close” in store, she said.

“It’s giving people lots more ideas. I think at one time we always did the same raised panel, off white kitchen over and over and over. And then it became the white shaker kitchen. And now the slab style contemporary kitchens are big.”

For anyone looking to personalise, it helps that inspiration is easy to find even in items many people consider mundane.

“Now you can find a million pictures online. There’s exotic hardware, manufacturers are starting to make more exciting stuff,” Ms Bearden said.

“Even the regular brands of locks, Kwikset, Weiser and Schlage – they all now make very contemporary styles. Everybody’s getting in on the action and it’s interesting, fun stuff as well.”

At Masters, the focus has always been on DIY, said Shawn Grant, the store’s vice president of retail merchandising.

“In this day and age you can YouTube or Google anything. Something such as cracks in a wall, you can fix yourself instead of calling someone – and we specifically target that type of customer.”

Shoppers have come into the Dundonald Street store excited by painting projects and improvements to their kitchens and bathrooms.

“Our buyers are constantly looking for new products, looking to get the best price so that we can pass them on to our customers,” Mr Grant said.

“More recently we’ve seen an increase in people who want to refurbish their apartments. They want to get them ready to be rented because we know that there is a shortage in apartments that are on the island.”

At Baptiste, Ms Bearden has also noticed that homeowners are investing in their apartments in a way they didn’t previously.

“People seem to be more willing to spend money on better quality products. The days of looking for the cheapest thing are thankfully behind us. I guess people recognise that the nicer they do the apartment the nicer tenant they’ll get because it is kind of competitive out there now.”

“Big construction” didn’t happen during the pandemic, she added. However, people spent funds normally used for vacation on home improvement.

Although such renovations kept business steady, sales were nowhere near those of the boom of 2007 when there was lots of residential construction taking place.

“Renovating a bathroom or renovating a kitchen or putting on a new coat of paint, that’s not a major project, that’s not building a house,” Ms Bearden said.

“While those little projects sustained a lot of companies during Covid, it doesn’t keep the business running on a day-to-day sort of thing. We’ve seen a lot of renovation projects but not a lot of unique hubs.”

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