The Market for Craft

May 30, 2020

The Market for Craft 

Blog kindly provided by Julia Bennett, Head of Research and Policy, Crafts Council

The Market for Craft shows how our passion for craft has never been greater – craft is increasingly important to consumers.
The first report to identify and gauge appetite for British craft for over a decade, The Market for Craft report reveals that 73% of UK adults had bought craft in 2019 – snapping up almost 25m handcrafted objects. In a significant shift, almost a third (32%) of today’s buyers are aged under 35 – making this demographic the biggest buyer of craft today.

The report also shines light on the US market for craft – 2.5m people in New York and 1.7m in Los Angeles have purchased craft from a UK based maker. But this represents only 23% penetration of an existing market of craft buyers with an appetite to buy more – 10.5m people (40%) would consider doing so.

The report was carried out by the Crafts Council and eight leading national partners* among 5,000 UK residents, 1,500 US citizens and 1,700 professional makers. Undertaken before the Covid-19 pandemic, the findings were thrown into sharp relief by a subsequent Crafts Council survey of nearly 600 UK-based makers, highlighting the challenges to business of the lockdown. The findings are informing crafts sector advocacy with government and industry bodies to support the recovery of a creative sector which generated over £3 billion in sales for our economy in 2020.

The report shows that:
• Online platforms have fuelled growth: in December 2018, Etsy reported that there were 220,000 active sellers in the UK with a further 9,000 makers on Folksy. 10.3m of us are now buying craft online. However, the majority still prefer to buy in-person
• Jewellery is the most popular craft discipline to purchase by volume (7.3m objects). But glass and metal are also growing.

The maturing of the craft market in the UK can be attributed to a number of wider trends that are likely to accelerate as a result of the pandemic. The rise of e-commerce, the favouring of investment purchases over throwaway objects and an interest in sustainability and supporting small business all underline the consumer appeal of craft and the making sector to brands and sectors of influence such as retail and property.
The proliferation of face-to-face craft selling channels – particularly craft fairs and markets – has also increased popular interest in craft. Just as platforms like Etsy and Folksy have brought craft to a new online audience, so too has the rise in craft fairs and markets brought craft to more people face-to-face with enterprises such as Crafty Fox (London) and Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair (Sheffield) not in existence a decade ago.

Craft experiences represent a growing market opportunity – with 20% of British consumers indicating that they would pay to attend a craft workshop. An increasing emphasis on wellbeing and digital detoxing are driving this: as attested by audience figures in the millions for TV programmes on making, such as The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down.

These days portfolio careers are commonplace – more than half of makers generate income derived from a variety of sources – from formal teaching, to delivering workshops, to jobs completely unrelated to craft. It’s also a market that creates employment opportunities for those who can sometimes be locked out of the employment market. A quarter of the makers surveyed reported having a disability, which means that craft is enabling people to be both creatively fulfilled and economically active.

The research is a rich resource for the craft sector to deepen their understanding of consumers, what, how and why they buy craft. With a quarter of makers already facing a negative impact of Brexit on their business, many makers will be in a precarious situation in a post-pandemic world – losing not only their opportunities to sell their work, but also on their other sources of income – be that teaching, workshops or hospitality jobs.

The craft economy was growing at a significant rate. This report now offers rich insight and evidence that can help inform policy decisions as part of an action plan for recovery.

*Arts Council of Wales, Contemporary Visual Arts Network, Craft Northern Ireland, Craft Scotland, Crafts Council, Creative Scotland, Creative United, The Goldsmiths’ Company, Great Northern Events/Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair.

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