19 May 2024, 21:18
By Gerald Grimes Jun 25, 2013

Housing resurgence presents retail opportunities

For once, the property market is showing signs of improvement. Hitachi’s Gerald Grimes looks at how this trend and others could  present welcome opportunities for retailers this summer …

As we all know, the fortunes of the housing market are inextricably linked to economic growth. Nothing helps to drive confidence and purchases more than a healthy property market, particularly for big ticket items.

Recent figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealed that the amount of homes sold in the UK reached a three-year high during March this year, due to increased confidence in the market continuing to translate into sales.

Confidence has slowly been returning to the UK housing market over the last six months, which is great news for the retail sector as an upturn in this market is expected to boost sales, with more homeowners moving, looking to remodel and add value to their home. The Government’s encouragement of greater availability of mortgages and the launch of their Help to Buy scheme is also set to enable home-hunters purchase a property with as little as a 5% deposit.

A buoyant property market is vital to economic recovery, and, together with these positive early signs, it is encouraging that there are also signs of improving consumer confidence on the high street.

Green fingers

Whether considering an extension for a new house – or the great number of homeowners who are choosing to invest in their existing homes – it seems that there is an increasing trend for garden rooms.

For those who do not want an expanse of white PVC fixed to the rear of the house, many are turning to garden room extensions as the ideal solution, particularly to enjoy the summer months. It not only increases the floorspace of a home, adding value to a property in the process, but also provides an extra social space.

“Confidence has slowly been returning to the UK housing market over the last six months, which is great news for the retail sector”

The greatest appeal of a garden room is the ease of opening up to the outdoors, connecting the internal living space with the garden, and they have become an alternative to a standard, traditional conservatory. This is opening up opportunities for furniture retailers to capitalise on this new trend – whether it’s with cane garden furniture, or chairs and sofas made from weather-resistant resin, having a haven to escape to and entertain guests within is a key feature of garden rooms in 2013.

On-trend

Only time will tell whether the new-style garden room phenomenon will replace the traditional conservatory. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that staying ahead of the trends by providing consumers with what they want, and combining it with a unique and personalised shopping experience, could be key for furniture retailers to capitalise on the summer feelgood factor and drive incremental sales.

We as a sector know that the customer experience is at the heart of any good retail thought process, and will impact upon how customers feel about purchasing – as we are all aware, a happy customer is more willing to part with their hard-earned cash.

Many of you understand the vital importance of developing strategies to persuade this new breed of consumers to part with their earnings and inspire them to brighten up their home with fresh new furniture purchases. A personal approach to sales, coupled with timely deals and multi-channel offerings, along with simply making consumers aware of deals, will drive sales.

Increasingly, many customers shopping in physical retail environments are looking for more than just a purchase – they’re looking to accessorise their lifestyles. They are looking for retailers to show them the latest fashions and how they can keep up to date with emerging trends in technology, via in-store tablets and mobile apps.

Summer loving

With the summer sales soon to get into full swing, this time of year also sees discounts, deals and interest-free credit offers as key boosts to consumer spending.

In addition to the external drivers we have mentioned, such as the housing market and consumer confidence, many of you will also look to increase innovation. Expanding your service offerings and delivering bespoke credit solutions is key if we are to continue the recovery. I believe that consumer confidence is starting to strengthen and, as a sector, we need to work together to capitalise on that if we are to reap the rewards this summer.

Let’s hope that the sun shines on consumer confidence, summer sales and, of course, our garden rooms!

Gerald Grimes is the MD of Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, and chair of the Consumer Finance Committee for the Financing and Leasing Association.

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