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October 2004 | Vol. III - No. 10
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New and Venerable Crafts Fuel Upsurge in Adult Crafters


Article Synopsis
  • Industry leader Michael´s Stores has exploited surging interest in Arts & Crafts; Q1 2004 gains were 11% across its 800 locations
  • Inventive how-to books and the booming scrapbooking trend contribute to Arts & Crafts´ overall popularity
  • Knitting, quilting, and beading have increased in popularity steadily since the mid-nineties

The Craft & Hobby Association estimated 80% of American households had at least one member engaged in arts and crafts in 2003. This $25 billion-plus segment is enjoying robust sales, with industry leader Michael’s Stores, Inc. posting an 11% increase in total sales in the first quarter of 2004 across its 800-plus locations.

Publishers have responded to the expanding popularity in arts and crafts by stepping up production of how-to books. This trend is in line with the fact that the major sources from which hobbyists get ideas are magazines, books, and catalogs.

The industry consensus on the most popular crafts is: scrapbooks, knitting, quilting, and beads, though there´s some debate as to the exact order of importance. Michael´s, for instance, has focused heavily on scrapbooking.

Scrapbooking

Tom Clary, manager of Corporate Communications at Irving, Texas-based Michael’s Stores, Inc., says, “Scrapbooks have been one of our better performing categories for the past six years. It’s gone beyond the scope of just putting together a simple photo album. People are becoming very creative. These scrapbooks that people work on now become part of their home accent.”

Clary further states the conception of crafters as older women “is a misconception.” Michael’s average customer is a woman, 35-54, with some college, whose household income exceeds $40,000 annually. In fact, 20% of crafters have household incomes exceeding $100,000. Add in the men and young adults taking up scrapbooking, and the increased growth in the arts & crafts segment resulting from these active crafters is easy to see.

For the past quarter, Michael’s Stores best performing categories were Scrapbooks, Yarn, General Crafts, and Kids Crafts. In fact, says Clary, Michael’s is in the process of opening “six or eight” new stores devoted entirely to scrapbooking and paper crafting. Tested over the past year, each ReCollection store (two are open now, in Dallas and Frisco,TX) is about one-third the size of a normal Michael’s outlet, or 6,000 square feet. Each store will offer 10,000 products dedicated to scrapbooking and paper crafting.

Robin Parker, assistant manager at a Hobby Lobby northwest of Austin, Texas, says, “Scrapbooks are popular across all age groups.” In fact, she can’t keep scrapbooking supplies in stock.

Knitting

The percentage of American women under 45 who can knit and crochet rose from 9% in 1996 to 18% in 2002. These women join with women over 45 (historically, the most frequent knitters) to place knitting among the most popular crafts. Yarn sales rank second among best performing categories in the first quarter of 2004 for Michael’s Stores, Inc., behind only scrapbooking.

Quilting

Twenty-one million people quilt as of 2003, a 50% increase since 1997. A current trend in quilting emphasizes embellishments such as beads and fancy stitching.

Beading

Beads are another craft enjoying an upswing, according to Robin Parker at Hobby Lobby. It’s another product line she has trouble keeping in stock. In addition, beaded and wearable art are both quite popular. According to a Craftrends survey, 36% of consumers who visited a craft store in 2003 bought beads.

Increasingly, people are taking the time to make things with their hands. They’re going offline more often to practice crafts and improve their homes, reflecting a larger cultural sentiment: that it’s possible to positively and significantly impact one’s home décor with things homemade.




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