How Lowe's, Home Depot plan to keep momentum as consumers' thoughts turn to travel
Spring has sprung, and with it comes the annual need for a home refresh inside and out as consumers purge and repair. Yet, at the same time, after more than a year of coronavirus lockdowns, people are thinking about traveling again, and are budgeting money for trips in the coming months in a release of pent-up demand.
These dueling demands for wallet share could pose a challenge for home-focused retailers, which have performed well during the pandemic, partly because homebound shoppers had few other places to spend.
That’s now changing as vaccines roll out and consumers feel safer going on vacation.
“Leisure travel is picking up, and there does seem to be a lot of evidence that people are, once vaccinated, willing to get on planes,” says Barbara Kahn, Patty and Jay H. Baker professor of marketing at the Wharton School. “They’re tip-toeing to spending money in other ways and their wallet is constrained.”
Booking sites like Tripadvisor have said they are seeing increased visits as consumers begin to plan trips. At the same time, other travel brands such as Hotels.com are boosting marketing with a “book now, cancel later” message, in case some are still a little hesitant to plan. Many hotels in New York City are preparing for a “spring awakening,” Crain’s New York Business found, following the April 1 end to a quarantine rule for some travelers. At the same time, consumers are beginning to invest in back-to-work wardrobes as they contemplate a future that doesn’t include the daily donning of sweatpants.
But home improvement brands like Home Depot and Lowe’s, as well as gardeners like Scotts Miracle-Gro, are ready with fresh marketing designed to continue to entice the shoppers who flocked to their brands amid the pandemic. Even furniture retailers Wayfair and RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware, are planning to continue the momentum. RH recently said it is forecasting growth of as much as 20% this year. To stay ahead, retailers are pushing their omnichannel capabilities and offering different products, like a Garden-to-Go kit available for drive-up pickup at Lowe’s. Kahn says they're already well-positioned after a year of consumer connections.
“If you’re really customer-focused and following where your customers are in their journey, you can pivot pretty quickly,” she says, noting that Lowe’s and Home Depot showed such flexibility by selling candy to customers last Halloween. “They were in the right place at the right time, but they were also understanding the trends of retail.”
Lowe’s recently kicked off a month-long spring campaign, called SpringFest, that is meant to continue consumers’ love affair with their homes. A 30-second spot, created by the Moorseville, N.C.-based retailer’s agency-of-record Deutsch LA, shows people gardening, grilling and mowing their lawns.
“To go somewhere new, you don’t have to log miles, just open your mind—the place you want to go, might be just outside your door,” a voiceover says. In the most recent fourth quarter, Lowe’s reported a 29% increase in same-store sales, along with net sales of $20.3 billion, a 27% rise over the year-earlier period.
Lowe’s will also host in-store demos, and offer free garden kits and other products like a piñata filled with mystery seeds, on special weekends. To promote itself, Lowe’s is also joining with influencers including Peloton instructor Ally Love.
“This idea of the importance of home is strengthening, not weakening, and our appreciation for it and the new relationships that have fomented during this period are not going to go away,” said Marisa Thalberg, executive VP and chief brand and marketing officer, in a recent press briefing. “Obviously people are going to start getting out and doing more, but that return-to-home sense of comfort and enjoyment, as well as utility, is something we’re going to continue to see manifest.”
Home Depot 'Bring on Spring'
For its spring marketing, Home Depot is hoping to tap into the sense of renewal and celebration that consumers are feeling after the chill of a COVID-filled winter. Called “Bring on Spring,” the campaign includes three different commercials that highlight different assets, like the Atlanta-based brand’s team of store associates, or the digital capabilities of its app.
In one spot, customers are shown opening the door to the season, buying tools in stores and online and upgrading their yards. “This spring, step out into the season, save and start doing like never before,” a voiceover urges. The work was conceptualized by Home Depot’s previous agency of record The Richards Group before the two parted ways last year, and was executed by Lerma and Trade School.
Lisa DeStefano, VP of brand marketing and creative at Home Depot, says customers have told the company they want the brand to be able to help them do what they want, and how they want it—either through pickup lockers, home delivery or curbside.
“Our goal is to have people shop the way they want that is comfortable for them,” says DeStefano, noting that the chain will not offer big in-store shopping days this year.
Last year, Home Depot reaped the benefit of catering to both a do-it-yourself and professional contractor customer. Sales for the fourth quarter were up 25% to $32.3 billion, compared with the year-earlier period, while the full year saw sales increase 20% to $132.1 billion.
“We understand people’s attention can and should be divided, but we believe people are excited,” says DeStefano. “There is this momentum around projects and the idea of projects continuing for them.”
Hear more about current trends at Ad Age Next: Retail, a livestreamed conference taking place on April 20. Purchase your tickets here.