German retailers are mansplaining home repairs with open-bar ladies’ nights

It’s ladies’ night.
It’s ladies’ night.
Image: Jill Petzinger
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Pumping music, flashing disco lights, and free sparkling wine: What better setting to learn about the proper use of power tools?

It’s a Friday night, and the 180 women gathered for the Bauhaus Women’s Night in Berlin’s Spandau district are in high spirits as they pick up goodie bags stuffed with catalogues, key rings and stickers. They’re mostly groups of friends—although a few lone women loiter among the plastic plants—and they’re here to learn how use a drill, tile a wall, or lay laminate flooring. A sign for one class reads: “We’re building a stone shower.”

A row of men are holding signs for the various workshops, while a guy with a microphone talks through how the evening is going to unfold. The instructors aren’t from the store—they’re representatives from manufacturers like Bosch, eager for direct access to a group of potential new customers in an amenable mood.

The store has been closed to the public, but we’re told the tills will stay open until midnight so everyone can buy stuff after the workshops.

Bauhaus, one of Germany’s largest DIY chains (Americans know them as hardware stores), has been running the women’s nights twice a year for the last eight years at its stores across the country.

“It’s a way to get closer to women who normally wouldn’t dare to have a drill in their hands,” said Bauhaus employee Iko Hermann.

Over 60 of us have signed up for the workshop on drilling, and the rep asks if some can move to another group. We shuffle over to tiling, where a representative from a tile-glue company talks us through the entire product range, occasionally pausing to utter his mantra: “There’s nothing worse than water under the tiles.”

The DIY event pulls in women from 20 to 60 years of age. One lady told the instructor she intended to build her own bathroom to feel more connected to her new house. Others were clearly just there for the beer, constantly served from shopping carts.

Bauhaus isn’t the only DIY chain in Germany going all out to target female customers. Competitor Hornbach hosts “women at work” evenings, with a more serious focus on tackling more in-depth projects. More than 10,000 women signed up for its evening course in November last year.