Whaddaya Mean, Spending? I’m Making an Investment!

While a shaky stock market restrains consumer spending in other areas, it’s pushing up outlays on home improvement. Conducted by Harris Interactive, the Lowe’s Home Improvement Trendex Survey finds homeowners planning to spend nearly $400 per month on average to upgrade their houses. One in 10 expect to spend $10,000 or more on such projects in the next 12 months. Even as they get jittery about other big-ticket spending, 21 percent said they’d “consider taking out a loan or using a credit card to finance a home-improvement project.” The key to this trend is that people can view these spending sprees (plausibly enough) as “investing,” not spending. And it’s a form of investing that’s especially attractive at a time when the equity markets are so volatile. Thus, 82 percent of the survey’s respondents said they view their home as “a better long-term investment than the stock market.” Best of all, it’s a kind of investing that gives people the pleasure of spending like drunken sailors. Keep in mind that few consumers appear remorseful about the spending they did when the economy was booming. Indeed, they’d quite like to be doing it now, but fear it would be imprudent to do so. For people who haven’t lost their jobs and still have money to spend—i.e., the majority of Americans—home improvement is the ideal way (since it’s safe and respectable) of gratifying this ingrained wish to spend. The moral for marketers in other categories: If you can somehow make consumers feel that buying your stuff is an investment, you’ll improve your odds of making the sale. On the home front, meanwhile, women are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Thirty-nine percent believe they do more home-improvement projects than their spouse/partner. (As luck would have it, the study finds lots of men are happy to relinquish such tasks.) Given their druthers, 38 percent of women would rather have a contractor do the work than do it themselves (26 percent) or have their spouse/partner do it (23 percent).