The employees in Germany’s DIY stores currently have their hands full even after the shops have closed. Around 30,000 price tags have to be adjusted every week, reports the trade association for DIY, building and gardening (BHB). For comparison: In normal times, an average of 3,000 changes is usual at most.

“We have many suppliers who give our member companies new prices every week with reference to high energy costs, material shortages and disrupted supply chains,” reports BHB General Manager Peter Wüst. And sometimes there are no more negotiations.

For most DIY stores, adapting means manually replacing the paper labels on the shelf. A number of providers have long wanted to introduce electronic price tags. “But these projects are on hold,” says Wüst. Due to the lack of chips, the digital displays are now much too expensive. After all, a well-stocked hardware store has around 120,000 items. And the even larger online offer is also affected by the price changes.

However, it is not only the operational effort that causes problems for the DIY store operators. In view of the inflation, they are also increasingly worried about business. It is unclear how customers would react to the price increases, says association representative Wüst.

However, the industry is still not feeling any reluctance to buy. On the contrary: projects related to insulation and energy saving, smart home or self-sufficiency from your own garden are currently booming. For the first quarter, the BHB reports a sales increase of 42 percent based on current figures from the market researcher GfK.

However, this jump paints a crooked picture – last spring, most hardware stores were closed for many weeks due to the corona lockdown, at least for end consumers.

This was also reflected in the 2021 balance sheet. The revenues of Obi, Bauhaus, Toom, Hornbach and Co. fell in Germany last year by a good eight percent to 20.3 billion euros. But the industry had expected this – 2020, with the often long queues in front of the houses, was an exceptional record year.

“If you compare the development in 2021 to the pre-pandemic year 2019, the DIY and garden centers are undeterred on a solid growth path with an increase of 4.5 percent,” says Franz-Peter Tepass, spokesman for the BHB board and managing director of the industry giant Obi.

He does not want to give a forecast for the current year. The imponderables are too great and the general conditions too unpredictable for that. But Tepass does not let a certain basic optimism be denied. “Also, but not only in times of crisis, DIY stores and garden centers are an integral part of people’s everyday lives,” he says. He therefore believes in a positive development of the industry.

This currently includes almost 2100 locations in Germany with a total of almost 13.34 million square meters of retail space. Both key figures are stable compared to the previous year. According to a survey by the Society for Market and Business Analysis (Gemaba), most branches are in North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by Bavaria and Lower Saxony. The segments with the highest sales in Germany are construction chemicals/building materials, followed by sanitary installations/heating/accessories and garden equipment.

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