After a year and a half in various states of community quarantine, many of us have come to realize that our homes aren’t quite as livable as we thought. With that realization comes the desire to take on an array of home improvement projects. No one knows this better than Rosemarie Bosch-Ong, COO of Wilcon Depot, who has steered the company through the challenges of the past year and has witnessed the exciting range of home refurbishments that customers undertook in the new normal.
Wilcon Depot grew sales by 48 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2021, supported by six new store openings and a marked improvement in retail traffic from the hard lockdown of 2020. According to Bosch-Ong, a significant driver of this traffic were home improvement projects, usually beginning with small upgrades and enhancements.
“Initially people were spending on things like housewares and small appliances – minor changes that allow you to adjust to the new lifestyle,” said Bosch-Ong.
Following these initial adjustments, however, customers moved on to bigger projects like the kitchen. “Before, the family was used to eating out, sometimes only seeing each other after dinner. But do you realize how much you use your kitchen now?” she asked.
Since the pandemic, she noted there has been a surge in demand for kitchen appliances and tools, spurred by the need to cook all meals at home and an interest in culinary pursuits like baking and grilling. While Wilcon Depot is traditionally known for hard lines like building materials, Bosch-Ong said the company was able to quickly pivot to offer more appliances and accessories to satisfy consumer demand.
With people missing out on travel and staycation opportunities, many have opted to add luxurious touches to their bedrooms and bathrooms to bring those experiences into the home. “For some customers who were renovating their bedrooms, their peg was actually a hotel room. They missed traveling so much they had to bring the hotel to the home.”
Bathroom upgrades, on the other hand, focused on smaller items – stylish towel racks, robe hooks, and sleek trash bins – to add a premium feel to a place that, until recently, was an often neglected part of the residence.
Outside the house, there was an emphasis on creating communal spaces to enjoy the outdoors. People configured gardens for alfresco dining so that families could have meals and congregate in open air, says Bosch-Ong. Meanwhile, staring at the same walls and facades seems to have inspired a desire in many to repaint their homes. “There was a surge in demand in paint, of all types, regardless of what area in the house,” said Bosch-Ong. “It’s indicative of a preference toward ‘soft renovations’ during the pandemic – relatively simple home improvement projects that add value but don’t require extensive outside help from contractors.”
With the pandemic continuing to cast uncertainty about the future, most home improvements tend to be renovations as opposed to new builds. “People are more conservative about their decisions to expand and invest, and the challenges around building right now also mean that construction is more costly, which acts as a further deterrent against big construction projects.”
Like a lot of activity since lockdown, home construction these days follows the trend of decentralization. “Right now, we’re seeing a lot of growth in VisMin and South Luzon, as people build rest houses and vacation homes away from the city,” observed Bosch-Ong. It is this growth outside the traditional urban areas that is fueling Wilcon Depot’s goal to open 100 stores around the country by 2025. With 68 stores so far and five more to open by the end of the year, the company may even reach that milestone earlier than planned.
For now, Wilcon Depot is perfecting the customer experience in the context of the new normal. “From the moment you enter our store, it’s really a seamless experience, so we’re focused on translating that level of service across all channels,” said Bosch-Ong. Whether it’s through floor tile calculators, curbside pick-ups, or answering questions through live chat, she and her team of customer experts are committed to going the extra mile to help their customers create their dream home.
“Ultimately, our goal is to help every Filipino improve, build, and refine their home in a comfortable and sustainable way. That’s our mission.”