With the fourth quarter of the year underway, we checked in with leading home improvement brands. How are leaders like Home Depot and Lowe’s weathering the category slowdown? And how is the market being impacted by smaller players like Tractor Supply Co.? We dove into the data to find out.
DIY Dreams Deferred
During COVID home improvement was one of the few retail segments to thrive. Everybody had their pet DIY project – and with recreational spending options severely curtailed, many Americans used their extra cash to fix up the spaces they found themselves spending so much time in.
But such inflated demand for home improvement supplies was bound to wane. And with high interest rates and a cooling housing market leading many to put big projects on the back burner, visits to category leaders Lowe’s and Home Depot have predictably continued to stall. Both chains experienced year-over-year (YoY) visit gaps between April and October 2023, reflecting the ongoing reluctance of many consumers to splurge on big-ticket, discretionary items like home renovations. And though the brands’ visit gaps widened in September and October, this might have been an exaggeration of the category’s natural seasonality – which sees visits spike in spring and decline as winter approaches – rather than any increasing weakness on the part of the chains.
Still Room For Smaller Players
Temporary headwinds notwithstanding, the longer-term resilience of the home improvement category appears indisputable. People will always need basic supplies to keep their homes running – and even postponed projects are likely to be revisited when consumer confidence picks up. Meanwhile, segment leaders are weathering the storm by doubling down on what they do best – leaning into the needs of professional customers while also providing homeowners with the tools and knowledge they need to conduct renovations and repairs.
And location intelligence shows that even in today’s challenging market, there is room for smaller players to find their audiences. Home Depot and Lowe’s, which captured a respective 32.0% and 23.0% of the nationwide category visit share in September 2023, continue to dominate the home improvement space. But there are other players on the scene, and one that has been making waves in recent years is Tractor Supply – the rural-focused brand that specializes in farm and ranch supplies.
With 2,200 stores across 48 states, Tractor Supply is continuing to grow its footprint – and home improvement buffs are paying attention. Over the past four years, the share of Home Depot and Lowe’s shoppers that also visited Tractor Supply increased steadily – nearly doubling for Home Depot from 5.5% to 10.6%.
Critically, however, Tractor Supply’s growth is not necessarily coming at the expense of the larger players. Between Q3 2019 and Q3 2023, the share of Tractor Supply Co. customers that visited Home Depot also grew significantly from 33.6% to 37.3%. And while the share of Tractor Supply customers visiting Lowe’s declined slightly, it remains a substantial 40.5% – showing that even as the smaller company makes inroads into the home improvement space, there is still plenty of home improvement pie for the category leaders.
Today’s market is still a tough one for home improvement brands. But as the economy improves, leaders like Home Depot and Lowes – as well as smaller players like Tractor Supply Co. – will likely see a return to visit growth. How will these companies fare during the holiday season? And what lies in store for them in the months ahead?