“It is imperative we use this time to renew and refocus”

Michael O’Donohoe, President, Hardware Association Ireland, talks to constructionnews.ie about his priorities for the HAI in the coming year.

Michael O’Donohoe joined Wavin in 2008 and is its country director for Ireland. He came to the construction industry from a background in the pharma/biotech area and was recently appointed president of the Hardware Association Ireland (HAI). He says that his immediate priority for HAI is to help members through the current uncertainties.

“My priority is to ensure that HAI continues to provide the supports and training for businesses seeking to navigate the critical issues of Covid-19 and Brexit. We must continue to seek opportunities for our membership and engage with the government on the issues that affect the hardware and building materials sector.

Addressing economic challenges

“Our industry has been hugely affected by the past 14 months of economic uncertainty. I am very conscious that businesses need continued support both at a regional and national level. Our local hardware personnel provide a huge wealth of knowledge to their customers throughout the entire country.”

Among his longer-term goals is a drive to improve quality standards in the building materials and construction sector.

“Building control authorities are badly under-resourced, and we have a great chance now to get the sector into a better space for the future.”

Michael O’Donohoe has been a board member of HAI for four years as one of two supplier representatives. He comments that Covid-19 restrictions have had a huge impact on the industry.

“Staff members are working under stressful conditions; restrictions have left us with limited supplies, and business owners are implementing new health and safety guidelines. It is imperative that the industry uses this time to renew and refocus as the economy returns to a new level of normality.

“Hardware is an old-fashioned business that needs to continue to compete. Investment in technology is an essential tool for any business, particularly in the 21st century. Retail must be available 24 hours a day. This is where the government needs to support our industry most.”

Emerging DIY markets

He adds that home improvement programmes/searches/influencers are now more in vogue than ever.

“This was one of the positive elements of people spending less time out of their homes and having more money to spend. The new DIYers’ age profile is younger, giving us a new breed of consumers who previously weren’t interested in home improvements. DIY has become much more popular as people spend more time in their homes and gardens – the expert advice consumers receive from the hardware professionals cannot be overstated. “There is a surge in interest in gardening and growing, be it on a window ledge or a patch of grass. Local service delivered by local people is something that we all want – the “Shop Local” campaign is a testament to this – who wants to live near a main street with nothing open? Maintaining this DIY interest for consumers will be a challenge for our members as discretionary spending on holidays and luxury items return in tandem with the economy reopening. Customer care, locally owned, product knowledge and being embedded in the community are vital pillars of our industry.

Retrofitting programmes

Michael O’Donohoe says that the green message of renewable and efficient energy resources is especially relevant for the hardware industry, with carbon footprints, certification and ethical sourcing more sought after than ever before.

“HAI members will be key partners in providing knowledge and products for Ireland’s ambitious energy retrofitting plans. The restrictions on the construction industry have been huge at a time when demand for new homes has never been greater. This is a major concern for the government, which has had to balance safety issues relating to Covid-19 against the importance of providing social housing immediately, with waiting lists remaining stubbornly high,” he concludes.

About Hardware Association Ireland

The key supports the HAI focuses on are:

  • Representing and lobbying
  • Business support – HR, advice, corporate partners, articles and phone assistance
  • Market intelligence – Regular industry research
  • Providing regular news and updates to all members, including seminars and trade shows
  • Training and development – Regularly updated range of sector courses (online at present)
  • Careers portal – Hardware jobs.

The Hardware Association Ireland is the representative body for Irish hardware and DIY retailers, builders’ merchants, distributors, and manufacturers. It represents over 400 members nationwide, has a turnover of €2.5bn, and 26,000 staff in the sector.

To learn more visit www.hardwareassociation.ie

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