Walmart flexes DIY muscle

The world’s largest retailer is taking steps to display its home improvement prowess through a digital marketing campaign centered on a “Projects Made Simple” area on Walmart.com.

The area is organized by home improvement project. For instance: how to stain a deck, install a water filter system, caulk a window or install a towel bar. In the deck video, an unidentified handyman narrator explains, “All the tools are available at Walmart to get you going.”

The website also lets users download a project sheet with tips and instructions.

Walmart has long dealt in home improvement products, but the latest effort e-blasted to customers with the invitation to “Explore Walmart’s complete solution to make home do-it-yourself projects simple” marks an aggressive push to DIY. The e-blast listed the three key features of the online tool: checklists, instructions and how-to videos.

According to preliminary data from the Home Improvement Research Institute, 40.6% of homeowners bought one or more home improvement product at a discount store (including Walmart, Big Lots and Target) during the calendar year 2011. That figure is up slightly from 40.5% in 2009, but down from 42.3% in 2007.

Home improvement specialists of all sizes have long felt insulated from competition from the mass retail channel due to specialized training and product knowledge of employees on the sales floor — a sophistication that they feel stores such as Walmart cannot match. But even if a more focused campaign from Walmart moves the perception needle even slightly, the results could be dramatic, given Walmart’s sheer size.

In 2011, Walmart’s sales in the United States were $264.2 billion. The company operates 3,804 Walmart stores in the United States.