Did Wickes commission the Comcero.com survey that revealed that Britain’s young men lack DIY skills, or are they just promoting it on their web site?  Whichever, it may have “got Wickes name on it”, but it seems to me that this isn’t news to their competitor B&Q who have been playing this card for a few years already.

The fact that B&Q’s older shop staff are intrinsic to their brand DNA can’t be an accident.  These are the people who grew up in an era when you measured a man by the weight of his tool box and he could fix, build or re-model pretty well anything.  It’s just a pity that the big orange sheds haven’t done more to build “brandships” around this theme.  Maybe now Wickes have shared this with us, they will.

Its definitely a generational thing.  Back in my other home in Prague, where society, despite its desperate scramble to become Western and “up-to-date”, lags a few decades behind the West in many ways, a remarkable and endearing Czech character trait is their reluctance to throw anything away.  Czech men, even the young ones, fix things.  Its not always a pretty sight, but there are things in every day use in most households, that would have been thrown out years ago by a faddy, fashion-obsessed Westerners who legions of manufacturers exploit annually with the introduction of new product models.  My Czech neighbour, who runs a business on a vintage PC with Windows ’97  just doesn’t get it.  Why should he upgrade when the things he has still work (albeit slowly)?

The Czech government had to introduce laws to stop drivers running ancient Skodas with drum brakes and three forward gears.  Every urban street has a communal car ramp where residents for years have worked on their Skoda 120’s and even today my guess is most motorists do their own servicing without questioning it.

My Czech brother-in-law needed a house, so he built one – I mean, himself, on his own – bricklaying, carpentry, services, the lot!  But to him that’s nothing out of the ordinary in a society that’s probably forty years behind us in many of its attitudes.  In fact, when Britain’s older DIYers finally retire for good, maybe our DIY sheds will be able to bolster its ranks with young recruits from Central Europe, who still know how to do all the handy jobs about the house that our fathers did?

Michael Weaver
January 20, 2011

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