As many businesses struggle to combat the effects the recession, at least one industry appears to be flourishing. Paula Gorry, UK Business Development Manager of Stampin’ Up! UK, a scrapbooking and design softwear company, examines how the crafting industry is defying the economic outlook and achieving continued growth.
Crafting has come a long way since its origins in the “make do and mend” era. The industry is now worth $29 billion in the US and in the UK the estimated number of contemporary craft-making businesses stands at 23,050, with an estimated total income of £457 million.
This growth is certainly something Stampin’ Up has experienced, despite the recession. We recently announced expansion into two new European countries – Austria and the Netherlands, and we’ve seen exceptional performance in our existing European trading markets of the UK, France and Germany, generating average growth of 80 per cent year on year for the last four and a half years.
There are many reasons that the industry is continuing to flourish. Recent research has indicated that one reason might be its placatory effect. In a survey of more than 1,000 crafters, almost a third of respondents indicated that crafting helps them to relieve stress. This suggests that as the pace of life quickens and schedules become ever more hectic, crafting offers an escape from everyday pressures such as juggling work and home life.
In addition, over half said creating something bespoke with their hands provides a sense of pride and satisfaction. These figures offer a fascinating insight into why the popularity of papercraft, scrapbooking and other craft activities continues to grow.
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Another factor behind this progression has been a revival of the direct selling phenomenon. Direct sellers, according to the Direct Selling Association, generate £2bn worth of sales annually in the UK.
In simple terms, direct selling is where goods are sold directly to consumers outside a fixed retail environment, like a shop. Consequently, direct selling is particularly well-suited to mums looking to support their household income. The business model offers complete flexibility: sellers are free to expand their business as much or as little as they want, fitting in around other jobs, parenthood or other responsibilities.
A successful direct seller will always have passion for their product and crafting is something many people feel enthusiastic about.
Although the traditional image of the direct seller is of mothers selling beauty products, this is no longer the core demographic. Around 20,000 new direct sellers have entered the market since the recession began and recent research has shown a large proportion of these are aged under 25 or over 50.
Multi-channel environments are also enabling the crafting community to thrive. There are a number of crafting tutorials posted online on You Tube, as well as Facebook groups set up for those interested in crafting for the first time. Meanwhile online platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are enabling people to share their works as well as receive feedback from fellow crafting enthusiasts. It is fair to say that social networks are enabling the crafting community to expand its target audience.
There is no doubt that the mainstream media has also played its part in helping to raise the profile of crafting and other DIY recreational activities. Shows like The Great British Bake Off and its crafty spin-off The Great British Sewing Bee have generated unprecedented interest among Britons, with the Bake Off final recently clocking more than 8 million viewers. BBC2 has also confirmed that the Sewing Bee will return for a second longer series in the New Year. The popularity of these shows indicates a heightened affinity for home-based hands-on activities, which has developed into sales for many crafting industries.
During these austere, recession-hit times, it is not surprising that crafting is enjoying increased popularity. In this increasingly fast paced world, there is a growing desire across all generations to connect with something real and tangible. Crafting allows people to ensure that their personality is reflected in a unique finished product.