The Do-It-Yourself Market: America Embraces Self-Reliance

A woman working with tools, 1940s.

FOR THOSE WHO MAKE THE WORLD™

“In the postwar decade, the Do-It-Yourself craze has become a national phenomenon. . . . In the fast growing market, the fastest-growing business of all is in the basic machines for the Do-It-Yourself workshop.”

TIME, August 2, 1954

If the 1996 Christmas season was any indication, there was no question that do-it-yourself home improvement was firmly entrenched in American culture. Home Improvement — a sitcom about a DIY TV host — raked in awards,1 and Craftsman’s Robo-Grip pliers were among the best-selling gifts of the year. The pliers outsold the season’s most popular toy,2 Tickle Me Elmo, by 150 million units.3

DIY had not appeared overnight, though. Its popularity was more than 50 years in the making.

The term “do-it-yourself” first appeared in an October 19124 Suburban Life magazine article titled “Practical Decoration for the Home Interior,” which gave tips on interior painting “for those who like to do things themselves.”5 DIY did not truly gain traction until the mid-1940s, thanks to the introduction of the home utility drill by Black & Decker — the first electric drill for consumer use.6 After World War II, Black & Decker capitalized on the popularity of power tools among factory workers. The ease and speed of the innovative power tools they used on the job inspired many of them to “borrow” the tools to complete projects at home.7


Left: Craftsman Ad.
Right: Black and Decker Ad.

The $16.95 drill was lightweight, portable and an instant success. Its introduction could not have come at a more opportune time: suburban expansion and the baby boom meant that nearly two million single-family homes began construction in 1950. By 1953, 11 million homes had dedicated workshops.8


Advertisement for intermediate drill, 1954.

The following year, TIME magazine announced the arrival of do-it-yourself, depicting a man on a riding mower holding a myriad of tools with the headline “the new billion-dollar hobby.”9 Companies across the industry began to introduce new lines of consumer tools that would help the industrious masses in their pursuit of home improvement.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Stanley used DIY as a rallying cry to give the company a new direction and purpose. DIY was used as a way to unite Stanley’s disparate residential, consumer and industrial markets under a single theme.10 With the slogan “Stanley helps you do things right,” the company introduced a number of new products including the Eager Beaver Circular Saw and a garage door opener that homeowners could install themselves.11 By the end of the 1970s, 50 percent of company sales came from DIYers.12 Stanley was perfectly poised to expand into more areas of DIY over the subsequent decades, including car repair and equipment rental. Home and commercial security systems contributed to the company’s diversification.13


STANLEY's You Can Do It ad for Popular Science, May 1978.

What began with Black & Decker in the mid-’40s was embraced by Stanley and other Stanley Black & Decker companies in subsequent decades.

Although it grew at a much slower pace, DIY caught on around the globe, as well. By the end of the ’70s, DIY had grown substantially in Europe and finally caught on in Latin America.14 In the 1980s, Stanley also moved to take a bigger stake in Asian markets, opening a manufacturing facility in Taiwan.15

Fast-forward to 2016, when digital technology was evolving at a dizzying pace. In order to keep up with this transformation, the company had to make significant changes to its strategy. It was a fascinating time to be a traditional consumer packaged goods company who primary focus was hard goods. This evolution prompted many tool brands within the Stanley Black & Decker family to consider digital products as part of their new product strategy.

One example of this is the DIYZ app, a unique mobile app that helps homeowners tackle DIY projects in better ways. DIYZ is the first app to combine step-by-step instructions, segmented video tutorials, and tool suggestions with the option to purchase tools within the app. Its most unique feature is video/voice chat, which gives users access to real-time professional advice from experts.

As digital technology continues to expand, Stanley Black & Decker continues to find the best solutions to meet customers’ needs.

 


 

[1] "Home Improvement: Awards." IMDb. Accessed February 07, 2018. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101120/awards.[2] DeGruttola, Megan. "Top Selling Holiday Toys from the 90s – Stitch Labs." Stitch Labs. December 10, 2015. Accessed February 07, 2018. https://www.stitchlabs.com/blog/top-selling-holiday-toys-from-the-90s/.[3] In Craftsman We Trust. Timeline. Produced by the History Factory for Sears, 2001. 21[4] Hawes, Joseph M., and Elizabeth I. Nybakken. Family and society in American history. Urbana (Ill.): University of Illinois Press, 2001. 278[5]Winslow, Garrett. "Practical Decoration for the Home Interior." Suburban Life, October 1912. 187.[6] Scott, Otto J. The powered hand: the story of Black & Decker. Washington: Uncommon Books, 1994. 90; "History of Black & Decker." Black & Decker. Accessed February 07, 2018. http://www.blackanddecker.ae/about/history/.[7] Griffin, Jeff. "100 Years of Innovation: History of the Electric Drill." Electrical Contractor Magazine. February 2016. Accessed February 07, 2018. https://www.ecmag.com/section/your-business/100-years-innovation-history....[8] Hawes, Joseph M., and Elizabeth I. Nybakken. Family and society in American history. Urbana (Ill.): University of Illinois Press, 2001. 289, 291; In Craftsman We Trust. Timeline. Produced by the History Factory for Sears, 2001. 12[9] “Do-It-Yourself, The New Billion Dollar Hobby,” Time, August 2, 1954.[10] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 113[11] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 116[12] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 127[13] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 137[14] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 128.[15] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 148.