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 siteEtsy.comreported $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:
Most heartening, there's still plenty of room for startup companies in this field.Rusty Pickle, a paper company that defines itself in the marketplace with its edgy designs, was started in 2003 by Tasha and Lance Anderson. They release new designs monthly, and most of their products are sold in independent scrapbooking stores. The Andersons reach such stores organically, by teaching at more than 30 scrapbooking conventions across the country.
Christian and Angela Magnuson startedUnity Stamp Co.in Minnesota just last May. They're receiving a good reception online for their unique eco-friendly stamps, which contain significantly less wood than traditional stamps and are packaged with recycled paper. "There are some people who are going to change [to our stamps] just because they like our packaging," Christian says.
"Crafting in general is kind of green," says Sarah Meehan, marketing manager for Stampington & Co., an independent magazine publisher that's launching Green Craft magazine later this year and already features re-use titles such as Altered Couture. "People are recycling and reusing things that they have, revamping them, bringing them up to speed."
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.
"We've grown our business," says Melissa Milne, North American sales vice president forThe Orb Factory, a Canadian company that makes Sticky Mosaic kits, which allow kids to make mosaics with paint-by-number-style stickers. "Our year-end is March 31, and we hit our target for this year two months ago." The company, which was started by owner Steve Kay in 1993, will see its sales increase 50 percent, according to Milne.
When indie crafter Kathy Cano-Murillo set out to design her second line ofCrafty Chicaproducts for Duncan Crafts, she chose to target sewers with her trademark Latino motifs. "I knew that sewing was an emerging trend, and my [grandmother] was a really good seamstress. That empowered me," says Murillo, who's run her art business with her husband for 19 years in Arizona. "So when it came to do the second round of CraftyChica, I was like, 'Please, can we do stuff with fabric.' "
Tough times tend to spur creativity. As an entrepreneur, there are few better ways to channel your creativity than in a crafts business. Whether you start to find your artistic voice or you do it to sell personalized gifts, crafting makes the most out of your creativity--as an artist and as an entrepreneur.