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Less Spending, More Crafting

The recession offers a wonderful opportunity for our industry.

by Bill Gardner (February 16, 2009)

What's old is new again. We're back to cocooning, thanks to the economy. Twice in the last couple of weeks I've seen the Today's Home segment on NBC's Today Show feature home activities and decorating for entertaining friends and enjoying family time. One guest talked about dressing up the table for a simple dinner party for friends. Sure, he used a variety of dishes in different colors to spruce things up, but he also used ribbon for napkin rings. Think how many other craft products could go into those tablescapes.

Today's segment showed furniture arrangements, particularly a sectional sofa with a coffee table the guest had loaded with board games for family fun night. Hmmm, crafting would make a great family fun night.

Remember when Faith Popcorn coined the term cocooning several years ago? Then it was all about staying home in our comfort zones to escape the fast-paced, high tech world we dealt, and continue to deal with, on a daily basis.

Today's cocooning offers protection from a cold, hard world that threatens our well-being with layoffs, foreclosures, bank failings, etc.

I know from first-hand experience how frightening things can be. I lost my job more than two months ago and am still searching, hoping for the perfect job to come along. In the meantime, I've become a master at managing a budget and cutting back on eating out, driving, my cable TV package, cell phone usage, electricity consumption, and anything else that requires money. (Fortunately my bowling team has a sponsor that paid all our fees so I can at least continue enjoying that leisure time activity.)

Besides those of us in the unemployment ranks, those who are still gainfully employed are scared out of their minds, wondering if they'll be next. They, too, are cutting back on spending, looking for inexpensive entertainment. Could crafting be the answer? I think it can. Certainly scrapbooking is a great family activity reminiscing over old photos, educating the kids about who those people are, and collaborating on how to display the photos in an album.

And crafting can be a great social activity among friends. Perhaps a kids' play day involves kids in various craft fun while the mothers enjoy jewelry making or knitting.

All that's not news to anyone in the industry or to a lot of consumers. The challenge now is to portray crafting as low-cost entertainment. Price is key. That doesn't mean having to discount merchandise; it means comparing the cost of crafting activities with the cost of say, dinner and a movie, a day at the zoo, or a family outing to a professional sporting event. And, of course, stressing the family bonding aspect.

Even when our economy improves, people are still going to be careful. Gas prices taught us a lesson last year. Nearly everyone thought twice before driving anywhere, or if they were like me, they planned their driving carefully so all errands could be accomplished quickly and efficiently in one trip. And, of course, those gas prices caused people to spend less elsewhere.

This economic situation is unlike anything many of us have ever experienced before. It hit us like a ton of bricks. Suddenly unemployment wasn't something that happened to other people. It's hit home with so many. Once people do get back on their feet, they're going to be cautious. I know I will be. I'm not even working right now and already I have a much more aggressive savings plan in mind than I ever did before. I know I'll be looking for inexpensive entertainment, and so will others. Crafting might just be the answer.

(Note: Bill Gardner is the former editor-in-chief of Craftrends, Sew News, and Creative Machine Embroidery magazines, and former director and education manager of the Memorytrends trade show. He is currently working on some free-lance projects, but would welcome a full-time job. He can be reached at gardnerbill@live.com. To read previous Kate's Collage entries, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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