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Sales and marketing information and advice. Innovative techniques and thought provoking strategies for your craft business.



"Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. That's about the only way it has ever happened in the past." Margaret Mead (1901 - 1978) Anthropologist

The craft industry is an overheated, oversaturated, oversold market. Is it oversaturated with handcrafted original creations? Not exactly ... What we are often seeing nowadays is an abundance of strikingly similar items.

What is the root cause of this?

How and why should this change?

A wide variety of sellers make up the Professional Crafter segment of the industry:

The stay-at-home mom or dad who wants some extra cash and a creative outlet. The hobby crafter who wants to get rid of extra craft projects and make some cash to buy more supplies. The part-time artisan who uses crafts to supplement their regular salary. The recently laid-off employee who turned to craft sales to help make ends meet. The occasional craft show vendor who sells at shows for the fun and comraderie. The full-time PC who makes their living from craft sales. The PC who sells full-time /part-time but does not depend on craft sales for their living. Overseas knock-off manufacturers. Teachers, designers, authors, ...

There are even more variations among the ranks of Professional Crafters, and all have one thing in common - a passion for crafts.

Where this passion for crafts gets murky is when commerce enters the equation. Often ethics fall by the wayside, creativity takes a backseat, and the bottom line issue is the amount of cash received. Although fun and creative, craft sales is a business just like any other, and growing bigger all the time. It would be both overly idealistic and naive to suggest that we all approach our businesses with a team spirit in mind. There are more craft producers than ever before, this is an industry bursting at the seams. And even though we are all a part of that same industry, we are not all necessarily on the same team. We each are in business for ourselves, and all want to be successful. But, where has all this craft production led our industry as a whole - and individually?

The sales philosophy at work in the current craft marketplace might be in many cases summed up as "the end justifies the means". More and more we are seeing a competitive environment filled with similarly designed items, in order to cash in on whatever is currently "hot".

What this means to you:

A "safe and same" approach to craft design is plunging crafters into a downward spiral of copycat designs, competitive pricing and lesser quality. Eventually the customer will be driven to making more purchases from the import market, which is positioned to take an even larger chunk away from the Professional Craft Artisan's market - We now see finished craft items being sold almost everywhere.

Why should the customer make purchases at a craft show or shop, when they can find a similar item for a better price at their local craft supply or discount store? Shoppers also have the added benefit of store coupons, substantial seasonal discounts, and blow-out clearance sales.

The burden of change lies with the Professional Crafter, one sale at a time. What if today, right now ... You decided to be more original, to trust in your own ideas and put them out there in the marketplace? It might take more time and effort to refine and market your original designs, but eventually you will be in a more secure sales position.

The quick buck may be here today, but it may be gone tomorrow unless some changes are made at the Professional Crafter level. Shoppers will not continue to purchase the same items over and over, and if the innovations begin to come from the import items and chain stores, where will that leave your business?

Your business can not only survive but flourish if you plan for the future. A change from the "safe and same" approach to one featuring uniqueness and originality will help to create and solidify your niche within the craft industry. It will mean trial and error, mistakes, taking chances, and a certain amount of courage ... It would be easier to simply copy whatever is on the shelves at the craft stores, purchase a few of the latest pattern books, go to the shows and check out what the local crafters are selling- and then jump on the bandwagon ... Sound familiar?

This approach will suffice for the crafter who is not concerned with crafting a niche in this business. But by remaining limited to what is perceived as a *sure thing, the end of the road may already be in sight.

NOTE:Since the writting of this article, imports have made large and lasting inroads into the handcrafted marketplace.


"Carol Gunkel / Professional The Craft Business Information Network all rights reserved.This article may not be reprinted, all or in part, without the author's express permission.


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Your article takes a no-nonsense, non-whiny approach as to what to do about the invasive import market. As a professional crafter, I am seeking to do exactly what you say, create unique, heartfelt designs, and hope the customer appreciates (they usually do) and BUYS. Thanks! - mary lynn

I agree that it is tough to find customers for what is selling . I appreciate you helping the small crafter. This is something we have needed. Thank you - Betsy