Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Home Improvement Industry Expands

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Home Improvement Industry Expands

Article excerpt

By Claudia H. Deutsch N.Y. Times News Service Home improvement used to be a compartmentalized industry, dominated by professional builders. Makers of, say, planking and windows sold only to "to- the-trade" stores, which dealt only with contractors. Do-it-yourselfers were& shrugged off as dilettantes by everybody and consigned to the hardware store's meager array of wares. But these days the $106.7 billion home-improvement industry is undergo- ing renovations. Once-antagonistic industry segments _

like insurance companies and contrac- tors, or manufacturers and retail stores _

are cozying up to each other. And retail stores are courting do-it- yourselfers. Across the country, they are building 100,000-square-foot megas- tores and stocking them with user- friendly tools and materials, all to help fledgling hobbyists become fearless builders. "People used to believe only a professional could do tiling or install track lighting," said Bernard Marcus, chief executive of Home Depot, the $5 billion, 12-year-old chain generally credited with getting do-it-yourselfers out of the closet. "That's utter& nonsense." The do-it-yourself mania represents a convergence of many trends. Homeow- ners are fed up with high-priced con- tractors who do low-quality work. A lot of people call themselves carpenters or other types of craftsmen; far fewer have the training or experience to support their self-declared titles. The distrust of contractors, a lingering recession and a bulge in the energetic 25- to-40 age group have made do-it- yourselfers a tasty market. Census Bureau data show that last year, the weak economy sparked a 6.2 percent decline, to $37.3 billion, in added rooms and other alterations done by professionals, and a 1.9 percent drop, to $18.1 billion, in replacements like new kitchens. Yet maintenance and repairs, often done by homeowners, increased by 20.2 percent, to $51.3 billion. "People are spending more time at home, so the home's condition is really important to them," said Jeffrey S. Silverman, chairman of PlyGem Indus- tries Inc., which makes home-improve- ment products. Added Dickson Clements, an infor- mation specialist at the National Associ- ation of Home Builders Remodelors Council: "During recessions, the& increase is in tasks people do them- selves." In the pecking order of home- improvement stores, arguments abound about which chains are second or third in popularity and potential. But there is no question who rules. Home Depot, which operates in 12 states and expects to have 175 stores by year-end, has been vacuuming up its competition's customers like so much sawdust. Several chains, including& Channel Home Center, have gone bankrupt. The others are frantically dodging the Home Depot juggernaut. "Home Depot lit a fire under a lot of people," said Allan T. Kane, the chief executive of Pergament Home Centers Inc., a $350 million chain of 34 stores in New York and New Jersey. …

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