Exactly 20 years ago, I informed my wife that a magazine had hired me away from my newspaper job to write about the plumbing industry. She’s still laughing.
You see, at that point, we already had been married for 12 years and she had witnessed my plumbing expertise firsthand. I had to explain to her that the magazine -PM’s sister publicationSupply House Times- covered thebusinessof plumbing distribution, not so much plumbing itself.
In other words, I would not be telling wholesalers, and later contractors like yourself, how to replace a bathroom faucet part (turn off the water supply first!) or clear a toilet clogged by a boy’s T-shirt. The latter actually happened when our young son confused the toilet with the laundry hamper, and, no, I’m not advocating underwear as a new testing medium for toilets.
I learned early on the value of hiring a professional to do plumbing work, whether it’s a repair, replacement or remodeling job. As it turns out, I was way ahead of my time, which is good news for manyPMreaders.
I now find myself among the majority of Americans who have neither the time nor the talent to do jobs around the house. In a survey released last month, 60 percent of respondents say they avoid handling major household repairs, choosing to hire or ask someone else to do the work for them. The same poll reports that 57 percent say they have average or below-average skills at fixing things around the house.
And it’s only going to get worse, or better, depending on your point of view. A separate survey of 500 teenagers indicates they possess even less interest than their parents in using their hands to fix things.
“Many Americans simply do not work with their hands anymore, whether it’s to tackle a hobby for pleasure or to handle a necessary household repair,” says Gerald Shankel, president of Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, The Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, which sponsored both surveys.
Shankel’s comment, along with the research, reminds me that this trend has been growing for some time. A decade ago, I attended a speech given by Robert Nardelli, then CEO of The Home Depot, who observed that the nation’s homeowners were changing from “do-it-yourself” to “do-it-for-me.”
Not coincidentally, Home Depot and other home centers opened contractor counters at that time, offering special pricing and services to plumbers and other trade professionals. Retailers realized that an increasing number of consumers were hiring contractors to do the work in their homes.
Aging baby-boomers and other demographics will continue to favor residential contractors, Kohler Co. President David Kohler observes in our interview with him on page 51 of this month’s issue and at www.PMmag.com. He adds that the repair, replacement and service market will bounce back in 2010 before new home construction does.
If you’re a contractor who does these types of jobs, 2010 is shaping up to be a good year for you. No one expects a quick economic turnaround, and the jobs you get may be on a smaller scale, but pent-up demand from do-it-for-me homeowners spells more work for you.
Now it’s up to you to take advantage of these opportunities.
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