When there’s no place like home – and it may need improving

Amid a gloom-and-doom cascade of unemployment figures and numbers of furloughed workers, small shoots of economic activity are popping up, notably in the home improvement and delivery sectors.

 

With more than half of Britons prioritising plans to update their home in the wake of the lockdown, according to a survey by home improvement company Safestyle, this market and its associated retail and trades look set to begin making economic comebacks. Safestyle reported that one in eight UK adults plans to spend money on improvements within the next six months. Of the 55% prioritising these plans, 23% intend to redecorate inside and 25% want to improve their gardens.

More than a third of respondents reported that they were comfortable letting tradespeople into their home to carry out work.

Further evidence for a boost in the home improvement jobs economy is news from B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher, which has announced it will recruit between 1,500 and 2,000 workers in the UK. Online sales at both brands more than tripled during April and May, Kingfisher has said. The jobs will be temporary during the summer, but Kingfisher CEO Thierry Garnier has left the door open to the possibility of longer-term jobs, depending on demand following the pandemic crisis.

The BBC reports that delivery firm DPD plans to recruit 3,500 drivers and 2,500 support staff, such as mechanics and parcel sorters. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns of shops have led to widespread growth in online shopping and resulting goods delivery. Management consultancy McKinsey say package delivery to consumers rose by 40% during lockdown. DPD’s Dwain McDonald was quoted by the BBC as describing that period as the “biggest boom in online retailing” ever experienced in the UK.

Elsewhere, London-based Tiger Recruitment says it is also witnessing small but promising signs of improvement in employment. “In May, we saw a 1.3% increase in new permanent jobs briefed to us versus April and a 1.1% increase in new temp jobs coming on to our books as employers become more confident about making virtual hires,” said CEO David Morel. “We expect virtual recruitment to continue an upward trend as employers become used to the processes of remote onboarding and having their teams working remotely.”

Morel added: “We’ve also had an uplift in temp-to-perm bookings as employers seek more flexibility while they gauge market performance – this trend is likely to continue as businesses feel their way through the ‘new normal’.”

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