The industry as seen by top designers.
Changing Customers, Changing Categories
Categories rise and fall, and today ....
by Tracia Williams (October 3, 2005)
(Note: CLN has received numerous reports lately about the
state of the industry – most of them gloomy. One exception was
from one of the industry's savviest designers, Tracia Williams.)
The customer is definitely changing. Ten years ago people went to
a craft store primarily to buy items to decorate with – paints,
stencils, wreaths, etc. Now they go to Home Depot to buy a large
portion of their home decorating supplies. The crafts I see people
making now are more personal – scrapbooks, jewelry, purses,
stitching and embellishing clothing, seasonal gifts and keepsakes.
The one category that continues to be strong year after year is
kids/group crafting. And it always will be as long as we have Sunday
schools, Girl Scouts, pre-school, and kids making crafts at school.
We've been in crafts many years and we have a perception of what
the craft industry should be; we think it should include acrylic
paint and stencils, for example, but now these are just staples, not
"hot" categories. They are down but at some point they
will start to trend up again, but differently.
Take yarn, for example. When I was a kid it was popular to
crochet afghans and ponchos. Then that faded in popularity; yarn
still sold but was not a "hot" category. Now it is design
driven and it took all this funky fiber and unique colors and the
desire to make a scarf, a Martha poncho, or a felted bag; suddenly
it is "cool" again to use yarn – but differently than
Americans are crafting. There are more shows on tv about
it than ever before, but it is not often referred to as
"crafts." There is a movement for people to be more
creative and to express themselves via art, such as the altered art
craze or the popularity of creating art on canvas for home
decorating with simple painting (inspired by the many how-to
decorating shows on TV).
The dust-collecting crafts are one-dimensional in popularity.
That's the reason that the professional crafters seem to be
diminishing; a big part of the PC business was what I call
"dust collectors" – painted wood pieces, painted wood on
wreaths, wall plaques, pouting dolls, door stops, etc. Decorating is
now more functional and cleaner in style – less cluttered.
Consumers' tastes have changed.
Independent retail is hard for any type of store. You have to be
a good manager and have a keen eye for buying products – and there
is so much competition for the consumers' dollars.
I owned a country store/gift shop/florist in the 80's during the
height of the country decorating period. It was a thriving store; we
had a good business. As times changed and we saw that style of
decorating diminish, we sold the store. But at the time, there were
country stores popping up all over the place; some survived and some
did not. We lasted eight years and decided that retail was too
We have seen this same phenomenon with scrapbooking stores: they
started popping up in every strip mall – and some are making it
and some are not.
I don't know if I believe that the failing of independent
scrapbooking stores is a sign of scrapbooking leveling off; it might
be that the market is saturated. Office Max, Staples, Target, –
typically non-craft stores – have sections of it; television
shopping channels feature it monthly; and home party plans sell it.
And the major craft chains have expanded their scrapbooking-paper
crafting square footage. There is a lot of competition for the
Group crafting with kids of all ages will never go away. Sparkles
and glitter – embellishing and jewelry making are very popular and
will continue to grow in popularity.
Ribbons will continue to be strong and increase in sales.
I think scrapbooking will continue to grow. It is a craft that
has sentiment and meaning to it. It is relaxing. It can be simple
and not time consuming, if you have limited time, or it can be as
elaborate as you want to make it. Scrapbooks are made with love,
they are keepsakes, and is usually something a parent makes for a
child or a sister makes for a sibling, etc. There are very few rules
any more in scrapbooking. You can make a book in any size; it can
have twigs, leaves, and buttons glued on the page and ribbons tied
to it. The possibilities are endless.
Knitting is fun, it is portable, and a first-timer can make a
stunning scarf that looks like a boutique item for under $20. It
will continue to grow.
The creative-collage, mixed-media, altered look will expand and
become more mainstream. I see this look on cd covers, in magazine
ads, in the opening of television shows, and on clothing. You
already see it in general scrapbooking magazines.
(Note: Tracia and her husband Chris run Tracia &
Company Inc., a product development & marketing firm in Orlando,
FL. Their primary client is Sulyn Industries. To read other
"takes" on the state of the industry in general, read
Business-Wise and on the state of scrapbooking in particular, read
Memory, Paper & Stamps. To read previous Designing Perspectives
columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)