An influx of skilled workers from Eastern Europe has made home improvements cheaper and ended Britain’s love affair with DIY, according to the boss of Travis Perkins plc.
In an interview with The Telegraph, chief executive of the builders and plumbers merchant chain, John Carter, said the arrival of workmen from the former Soviet bloc introduced competition to the market and had created a “Do it for me” culture that ended the era of “Do it yourself”.
“It was driven by the influx of Eastern European builders who were skilled and competent,” Carter told The Telegraph. “They regulated prices and gave people a choice. The UK fell out of love with DIY from the peak when Changing Rooms and Ground Force were on TV.”
He added that Britain was now a country where the skills were being lost to carry out all but the most minor of household jobs. ” ‘Do it for me’ is here to stay,” he said. “We’ve reversed the capacity for DIY over the past 10 years. There’s a lack of ambition to do it and people prefer to enjoy their social life than to do DIY.”
In March 2015, the company announced plans to create 4,000 new jobs and open 400 branches over the next four years across Travis Perkins, Wickes, Toolstation, Benchmarx and in its plumbing & heating and contracts divisions.
The builders and plumbers merchant chain saw its revenue increase by 8.4% in 2014, with only its plumbing and heating division reporting a drop in sales.
The company’s consumer arm, which includes Wickes, Toolstation and Tile Giant, and has annual sales of £1.3bn, has been the biggest beneficiary of the end of the British love affair with DIY. While its stores are open to the public, many of its customers are small builders and plumbers.
“We would much prefer [the public] bring in a tradesman who they know will do the job well,” said Carter, adding that the average visit to Wickes takes just eight minutes as jobbing builders rush in and out before heading back to their sites. “Overall [people] will get much more satisfaction from the job [if it has been done professionally].”
He said that the recent announcement by B&Q that it is to close 60 stores and that Homebase plans to shut a quarter of its outlets presents an opportunity for his company.