Crafting: A Silver Lining In A Tough Economy
by Laura Tiffany, Entrepreneur.com
In economic times like these, the urge to hunker down in your house, limit spending and jump off the merry-go-round of shopping, credit and consumerism can be strong. And one way for people to step outside the system, if just for a few hours a week, is crafting. Rather than being a consumer, a crafter becomes a manufacturer; the end result of a night on the couch isn't three hours of empty Tivo space, but a scarf, toy or handmade holiday ornament that one can give away, keep or sell.
While data are still being compiled for 2008, the Craft and Hobby Association reported that in 2007, craft sales in 39 categories reached nearly $32 billion, and nearly 57 percent of U.S. households engage in crafting. Online handmade goods site Etsy.com reported $88 million in sales in 2008, a significant increase over 2007 sales of $26 million. With 1.9 million members and more than 200,000 sellers, Etsy enjoyed $9.9 million in sales in January alone.
Like most retail sectors, it's likely that craft sales may decrease in the coming months. But all signs point to more and more people diving into this market, both as consumers of supplies and handmade gifts, and as entrepreneurs selling their own items and supplies.
At the January CHA show, spirits were high as manufacturers and retailers recognized that the economic climate creates more folks ready to put needle to fabric and stamp to paper to join a crafting revolution that's been in the works for more than a decade.
Some of the big crafting trends present at the show, which featured more than 900 exhibitors, include:
- Scrapbooking. This is the most robust craft category that CHA tracks, and scrapbooking companies had by far the strongest presence at the show. While paper still rules scrapbookers' supply cabinets, many crafters are taking skills such as stamping, painting and decoupage into other media for jewelry making--like sandwiching tiny art between glass slides for a pendant or stamping blank wooden bangles.
- Crafts for kids. Kid-specific kits and products are hotter than ever, even in this tough economy. "Unfortunately, the schools cut a lot of creative areas, so it's up to the parents to do it at home. And I really think [crafts have] become an important part of the American family," says Jenny Lowe, design director of Moorestown, N.J.-based Sbar's Inc., a 50-year-old supplier of family-friendly crafts that has lived through its share of recessions. "Kids are just so eager to accomplish something. And let's face it--crafting gets them away from the computer."
Some companies foresee growth in this area because of parents wanting to craft with their kids. Parents can purchase a $15 kit and have a fun evening at home, rather than pay $50 to take the family to the movies. There are also ancillary customers, such as church camps and Scout troops. And of course, there's always the need for kids' birthday gifts, too.
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