I’m Sew Money – The Rise of The Craft Industry Online
- June 30, 2011 by Elizabeth Anderson, Social Experience Marketing Manager
Crafting – it’s not just ugly crocheted tissue box covers anymore. The handmade industry has had a makeover in recent years. What may have formerly been considered as a hobby, has for many, become a career thanks to the influence of the Internet and social web. According to craftster.org, the U.S. craft industry generated more than $29 billion in revenues in 2010. Twenty-nine billion.
How Has the Handmade Industry Evolved?
If you’re taken aback by that astronomical revenue figure, then you must not be one of the more than 800,000 active sellers in the online handmade marketplace Etsy. In 2005, Etsy launched with just under 100,000 sellers of handmade, handcrafted and vintage goods. With a similar business model to eBay, where they make a percentage of the value of goods sold, Etsy’s key differentiator was their mission. Etsy endeavored to create more than an ecommerce experience – they had a vision of a new economy where people would buy, sell and live homemade. Their mission statement, “To enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers,” has helped guide them from fledgling startup to reaching over $300 million in annual sales in less than 5 years.
Etsy met an increased consumer demand for local or independently produced goods. The “buy local, buy handmade” movement, combined with the recent U.S. economic downturn, created a unique opportunity for a large group of people to consider harnessing their inner creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
How The Social Web Connects Makers & Buyers
Etsy sellers leverage their blogs as well as social networks like Facebook and Twitter to create an intimate connection with their buyers. By integrating their personal stories and inspirations into their online storefronts, they are selling more than just their crafts, they're selling themselves. For the buyer, there is an added value of having a genuine human connection (though a virtual one) with the person who created the object you’re buying, an experience a big box retailer or shopping mall can’t simulate.
Trends In Handmade Swag
The rise of crafting as an enterprise is not only due to the introduction of marketplaces such as Etsy and Craftster. Crafts have simply gotten better. No longer just cheesy platitudes and dated design sensibilities, crafters are influenced by consumer trends and driven by cultural references. Take Mr. Xstitch, a popular Etsy seller and handmade industry advocate who creates tongue-in-cheek cross stitch patterns with traditional styling yet edgy content. Crafters are embracing technology to create accessories for their wired gadgets. One of top sellers in the 2010 holiday season wwas fingerless gloves so that you could look stylin’ and keep warm while using your iPhone or touch-screen devices.
The Handmade Industry Spills Into Traditional Retail
Perhaps inspired by the surge in the handmade entrepreneurs, more and more consumers are interested in getting involved with DIY and handmade projects. A fun trend that marries the craft revolution with mainstream retail is repurposing or modifying storebought items in artful or unique ways. One of the top examples of this trend is Ikea “Hacking” – taking the modular flat packed mega retailer's items and adding a little DIY to make inexpensive bespoke furniture, artwork or decorations. Check out Ikeahackers.net for examples of how people have created one-of-a-kind objects using mass-produced materials.
What’s Next for the Handmade Industry
With the rising consumer interest in handmade or local goods, watch for major retailers to capitalize on this trend with craft-inspired product lines and goods made to look homemade. And don’t worry, even as more and more people embrace the handmade lifestyle, there’s still plenty of room for Grandma’s ugly crocheted tissue box covers in the crafter's landscape – she may even end up on Regretsy, where DIY meets WTF.
Dig this article? Get similar content sent straight to your inbox by signing up for our monthly e-newsletter below.