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, investment purchases over throwaway objects, and an interest in sustainability and supporting small businesses. As makers look to secure their futures and to rebuild and strengthen their practice, the findings are a rich resource to help us interrogate and advance the vital roles of makers and consumers, as well as the galleries, fairs, markets and businesses that unite them.
Key areas of focus include:
As craft has entered the mainstream, the majority of the market is dominated by more cautious, cost-conscious buyers. Almost a third (32%) of today’s buyers are aged under 35 – making this demographic the biggest buyer of craft today. The under 35-year-old craft buying market has grown by 32% since 2006 as a new generation of younger, ethnically diverse, savvy buyers drive a significant shift in patterns of consumption.
In terms of makers’ demographic profile – the proportion of disabled makers has more than doubled since the last study in 2006, with around a quarter of makers in 2020 having a disability.
10.3m Brits are buying craft online – a figure that has more than tripled over the last decade. However, the majority of people still prefer to buy in-person. This growth has largely been fuelled by the success of retail platforms. In December 2018, Etsy reported that there were 220,000 active sellers in the UK with a further 9,000 makers on Folksy.
Jewellery is the most popular craft discipline to purchase by volume, but glass and metal have seen the most sizeable growth since 2006.
In 2020 around half (49–53%) of makers had sold work overseas in the previous 12 months. 85% of Americans surveyed would buy a piece of craft compared with 88% here in the UK. 28% have bought from a UK maker and 59% would consider doing so in future – revealing a strong appetite for UK exports. With 10.5m untapped, potential consumers living in New York and LA alone, the report points to considerable potential for US growth.
However, makers are concerned about the negative impact of Brexit on their work – a quarter (26%) of makers surveyed for this research said that Brexit had already had an adverse impact on their business; a further 22% said they expected it to in the future. The majority of issues makers faced related to rising costs – of materials, of shipping – and a loss of commissions, particularly from international and private clients.
From the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee attracting audiences of close to 5 million, and sellers of craft supplies for the domestic market seeing a surge in sales — public interest in making and its wellness benefits has soared. With 20% of British consumers indicating that they would pay to attend a craft workshop, it is no surprise that such a significant number of people are turning to online tutorials and craft kits to learn a new skill while they have more time at home.
New intermediaries can also capitalise on makers seeking a means to diversify and sustain their business through the delivery of short courses and masterclasses.
Looking ahead, the Crafts Council are preparing a new guide for makers on offering craft experiences. To stay in the know make sure to sign up to our Maker newsletter.
Makers are harnessing technology to promote their work but need support in optimising their approach. In 2006, 42% of professional makers had their own website. By 2020, 68% of all makers had a website. Whilst the use of technology is common across all makers surveyed, advice and support in optimising the use of technology were the training needs identified by the highest proportions of makers, in particular social media and promotion (44%) and how to use online platforms to sell work (46%).