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DIY Chic

Who Really Wears the Tool Belt at Home: Gender Roles and the DIY Industry

Women are making up more of the home improvement market than ever before. They are tackling larger projects, surpassing men and driving sales. Understanding what women want is essential to capturing female enthusiasm for all things DIY. Big-box retailers, recognizing this shift of gender roles, have been subtly implementing changes that attract women without alienating their traditional customer, the Handyman. 

The Rise of Female DIYers

Despite the enduring image of “Mr. Fix It”, women outpace men in DIY spending – a segment which has gone up 33% in the last 2 years alone. According to a study by a major big box retailer, women are tackling more jobs around the home while men’s participation is actually declining. Studies on this increase point to the surge of home remodeling shows on television featuring women.

Another factor here is that single women are buying twice as many homes as single men. In fact single women account for more than a third of the growth in home ownership since 1994. You can always tell it’s a trend when they make a show about it, and they have, and it’s called “Buy Herself”. This is not only good for the housing industry, but it’s a boon for the DIY market.

The Right Tool for the Job: Understanding What Women Want.

Men and women have different priorities when making purchases. Gender preferences become particularly apparent within the hardware industry, where it can be challenging for women to find tools that fit her particular needs. Manufacturers eager to gain market share with women can benefit from following these five guidelines: Benefits, Lifestyle, Green Initiatives, Intuitiveness, & Full Experience.

Ditch the Industry Jargon

When it comes to products and tools, women care less about specs and RPMs and more about intuitiveness and ease of use. Tell her that the tool makes drilling easier vs. its 400 rpm. Traditionally men tend to be interested in how it works, while women want to know how it will work for them. 1 When introducing the iPod, Apple did an amazing job of communicating our music player equals 150,000 songs in your pocket vs. traditional megabite technical terms. Leading with practical benefits over features shows that you are considering a women’s busy life.

Appeal to Her Lifestyle

Women want to know if a product will work with her lifestyle. Before making a purchase she’s thinking about where it will go in the house and who will be using it. Women shop for the entire family. Make it easy for her to envision using your product by clearly illustrating how it operates. Prominent pictures of both men and women interacting with your product help tell your brand story. Stories along with user-friendly product information help her visualize the process and eventual project outcome, before she leaves the store.

Incorporate Green Initiatives

Nearly 50% of women say that they want more environmentally friendly product choices. Green is becoming less of a differentiator and more of an expectation. Show women that you care about the planet by making your product recyclable, with packaging manufactured without harmful chemicals and solvents.


Women are busier than ever, especially moms. They don’t have time to consult a manual. Make your product work the moment it comes out of the box and the packaging a breeze to open. No one enjoys yielding industrial strength scissors to open anything (we’re talking to you, plastic clamshell).

Women want products that maximize productivity. Make her feel like she made a good choice selecting your brand and she’ll reward you by sharing her experience with all of her friends.

Women Want a Full Experience.
If your marketing says that your product delivers a professional end result, be sure to communicate this message throughout all her interactions with your brand. Your packaging, website, store environment and sales team should all be polished. Women notice everything, especially inconsistencies anywhere across your brand experience.

Hardware Stores “Transparently” Retooling for Women.

Transparent marketing campaigns target women without overtly saying “Hey lady this product’s for you”. The product’s design, packaging and marketing is free of visibly feminine attributes. A bedazzling of rhinestones for example. This is a sophisticated approach which requires in-depth research and thinking to avoid ingrained gender biases. When done well, products that connect with women’s genuine needs pays off in long term loyalty and sales.

Big retailers like Lowes and Home Depot have been subtly improving their stores to account for women. Wider aisles for browsing, increased store signage, and expanded selections of designer fixtures in showroom settings draw in women customers. In fact these understated details have increased sales with both male and female customers.

Tool manufacturers are implementing “transparent” design features for women without compromising their traditional rugged appearance. Ryobi’s “TEK4 Screwdriver” is lightweight, cordless and fits easily into women’s hands. Ryobi’s commercials feature both men and women using their tools, and their signature green colors pop off the shelf compared to the omnipresent red and yellow of their competitors.

Increasing Sales with Women and Men Too 

For many years it was assumed that developing products for women would drive away male customers. In the case of the home improvement industry the opposite has turned out to be true. Easy to use, comfortable and time saving products are appreciated by everyone. As are the well-organized, expertly-staffed hardware retailers stocking these products. The result of fully meeting women's expectations through “transparent” strategies is a win for business and makes for a better product experience for all.

1 Bridget Brennan, Why She Buys: The New Strategy For Reaching The World’s Most Powerful Consumer 

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