Home decor industry gets new lick of paint

Yuan Luhang
Home decorating grew steadily in the slipstream of the boom in home ownership, and it is now benefiting from the current trend of renovating existing housing.
Yuan Luhang
Home decor industry gets new lick of paint

Yao Yao, 28, a Shanghai white-collar worker, bought a new house with already-painted walls in 2019, but she didn’t like the color.

She conducted some research, found the color she wanted and hired painters to do the work. The job took two days, and she took some time off work to check that it was going well.

“I was worrying about the painting job,” Yao said. “But in the end. it looked good and it produced the effect I wanted.”

She’s not alone in having concerns. Many Chinese harbor misgivings about perceived traps and substandard work in the home improvement industry, including new paint on walls starting to peel off way too soon.

The industry is trying to improve its image with new standards and guarantees for customers.

Home decorating is big business in China. It grew steadily in the slipstream of Shanghai’s boom in home ownership, and it is now benefiting from the current trend of renovating existing housing.

Tmall.com, the popular Alibaba-owned retail website, says home decor and improvement supplies have become its biggest online business segment and noted that its vendors are adding services to do the jobs for customers.

Nippon Paint, Asia’s largest coating and paint manufacturer, introduced home painting services on its Tmall store as early as 2016 to try to capture what it saw as a largely untapped market.

“In the home decor and home improvement market, there is strong demand for services to do renovation and painting rather than just buying building materials and decoration products,” said Qiu Bai, head of Tmall’s home decor and building materials.

“For example, consumers want to beautify walls in their homes, but they don’t necessarily want to do the work themselves. In other words, they want one-stop solutions,” he said.

The market for home decor is certainly showing no signs of a slowdown. The industry’s value is expected to reach 2.59 trillion yuan (US$370 billion) this year, according to the Qianzhan Industry Research Institution.

Last month, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, said it will accelerate the renovation of old communities built before 2000. That involves an estimated 4.5 billion square meters of houses to be renovated. That volume is in addition to the 1.5 billion square meters of new housing built across the country every year.

The younger generation is the backbone of the industry boom.

Those born after 1995 are reaching marriage age. Buying an apartment is generally a prerequisite for nuptials. And many apartments are sold without any interior work done.

The new generation of married couples wants more personalized, trendy products to feather their nests. However, most of them and don’t have the time to do research on interior decorating or do the job themselves. One-stop services are a godsend.

“Consumers used to buy home decoration and building materials online and then find a firm or worker to do the jobs,” said Qiu. “What we are trying to do is integrate the buying of products and the application of them. The most challenging problem facing the home decor industry is lack of trust.”

Nippon Paint China and the National Coating Industry Association recently sought to address that problem by releasing a guide for painting work in a move to standardize the industry and build more consumer trust.

The guide standardizes eight procedures of the repainting process, the seven layers of the painting and six criteria for evaluating the repainted walls.

“It is the right time to issue such a guide,” said Sun Lianying, president of the association.

“It sets out comprehensive standards based on the years of experience of Nippon Paint China.”

When asked what she thought of the new guide, consumer Yao said it was too complicated and she didn’t have the time to read it. However, she said she is aware of the painting services provided by Nippon Paint and may give it a try in the future.

Lu Weiguo, vice president for Business Unit Coatings, Adhesives and Specialties, Covestro China, said he expects demand for home improvement products and services to increase as people seek to renovate their living surroundings.

“We are a raw materials provider, and we want to seize on these new opportunities,” he said.

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