irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
The New Craft Consumer
Where is she? All around us.
By CLN Subscribers (July 17, 2006)
(Note: In the 7/3/06 issue of CLN the Commentary
included the following: "There appear to be three elements to
the crafter of the 21st century: 1. She's tech savvy. She may
not need her leisure activities to be high touch just because her
job is high tech. Escape from high tech? Technology is so ubiquitous
in her life she can't imagine – or wants to – escape from it. 2.
She doesn't have the "smiling bunny" syndrome that her
mother had. I'm not sure what she wants to make, but whatever it is,
it's not "cute." 3. She doesn't want to make the
same project in the same way as everyone else. She wants to make
something unique. The question is, how many of these new consumers
are out there?" Here are some answers from readers.)
She's right here, right now.
Regarding your commentary: The "smiling bunny" syndrome
went away a long time ago, and not just with young consumers. When
it comes to following the rules and making a project exactly like
the model, other than cardmaking classes, I can't remember the last
class I sold that did not give participants choices.
Tech may be taking over, but because we do live in tech world,
people who craft appear to be looking for an avenue of self
expression. Most of my classes (again excluding cards) have become
workshops. I provide an assortment of materials and make one or two
models showing the same basic project with different colors /themes
and provide technique instructions and suggestions during the
workshop. These workshops sell out every time. One of my associates
creates the cutest little memory books ever; her classes were rarely
full until she added "you pick your theme" to the class
description. Now she's turning people away.
My favorite is the Alter It workshop we offer once per month. At
the moment, I have quite a waiting list. Were I in the store more
often, I could offer two per month and still have a waiting list.
And get this: the average age of my participants (including those
waiting for space) is 65- 70 (although the group includes 30's and
40's as well), and all but one of them are quite computer-savvy,
thank you very much!
In traveling the state and talking with store owners and
instructors, this actually seems to be the norm rather than the
exception. Assuming that the consumer you discuss is young seems
inaccurate. Seniors have time, often have disposable income, are
fascinated by technology, spend much of their time learning to use
it, and love to craft. Women between 35 and retirement are looking
for avenues wherein they can express themselves without the
confining structures of their careers.
I will grant you that much of rural Arizona's economy is based on
the huge influx of snowbirds we see every winter, so my observations
may be skewed. On the other hand, I know that un-constructed classes
and projects are selling across the board (beads, yarn, wood
working, etc.), so it would be my guess that this applies nationwide
and to most age and gender groups as well.
I have found; in my little neck of the woods, that projects which
combine tech with traditional materials are very popular. An example
is to use computer-generated transparencies to insert into cards for
sentiments, or to create transparent foregrounds in other projects
(we sell transparency sheets by the ream these days).
It seems to me that if we are not catering to your "new
consumer," we are completely missing the boat. – Trish
Hansen, MoonSong Design
New stores for new (and old) customers.
You bring up some good points about the new consumer and I think
raise some good questions. She may not be our core customer yet, but
even our core customers are beginning to be more like her. Shops and
manufacturers who remain unaware of this consumer risk, I think, on
losing out on the new revolution in crafts.
I'll talk about my own industry. Recently I've been working with
three folks in different parts of the country who are opening or
expanding their shops. All three are firm in wanting a new look to
their needlepoint shops; they don't want "old lady
needlepoint." To them, this looks fussy and frumpy.
To tell you the truth, they're right.
But a store doesn't need to go far to change into a store
appealing to the new consumer, nor do they have to go far to turn
into a place where old needlepoint goes to die. In fact I see the
same canvases in both kinds of shops.
So how does a fresh, not-boring canvas become boring once it goes
into the shop?
The shop which appeals to the new consumer is bright, with lots
of white and modern, fresh colors. A store I visited recently had
white walls with orange and lime accents. Not my favorite colors,
but it looked great and made you want to stay.
The stuffy store has colors which such out color. Bright lights
make it easier for our aging core customer to see. If there is only
track lighting or directional light, that customer may not come in
because she can't see to walk around.
The new customer wants a homey atmosphere with real furniture.
One store I visited had a couch (with needlepoint pillows) and a
bookshelf (with needlepoint books to look at, not all for sale), and
a coffee table. I could sit and relax while my friend checked out.
The stuffy store has no chairs or a table reserved for the stitching
friends of the owner. Our core customers will appreciate the
thoughtfulness of the seating.
Information at the new store is readily available. Yyou know how
much the thread will cost; it's there in readable type right by the
thread. The stuffy store has no prices on any thread: you pick your
thread and the clerk consults a chart to ring up the prices. Big
friendly type is appealing to the new customer and readable to the
The entire inventory isn't on the walls. An edited selection is
presented so I can get an idea of what is there. The rest of the
canvases are easily accessible and within reach. The new consumer
gets turned on by craft displayed like art. It appeals to the High
Touch luxury idea. The core customer might not be able to reach the
higher canvas, and she may get too much graphic "noise"
from too many canvases to make a decision.
There is space in the store. The new consumer likes that she can
walk around and see things. The core customer is happy there is
space to move with her tote bag.
Help is readily available from both customers and workers. Crafts
are communal activities. We should share ideas and projects with
others. The new consumer is happy to be welcomed into the group, as
this is part of why she is looking at crafts. The core customer gets
turned off by exclusivity or by a shop owner who isn't pleased with
the work of her customers.
I was in a shop once where the shop owner got mad at me, a
regular customer, because I told another customer where in town to
get an item she needed which the shop didn't, wouldn't, and never
had sold. I felt like the owner got mad because I was telling her
where to get gas or a doughnut!
Looking at this I find it tremendously interesting that I haven't
talked about canvases, and that the things which make the store
appealing to the new consumer also make it appealing to the core
My feeling about shops who don't change to attract these
customers either don't have a clue how badly their store turn off
existing and potential customers, or they just don't care. In either
case, when a new store comes into town which appeals to the new and
the old, those stores will start having problems. – Janet Perry,
Napa Needlepoint, www.napaneedlepoint.com
Tech savvy: an understatrment.
Tech-savvy young people? Here are my children: 1. The 24-year-old
will not leave home without the following: his i-Pod, PS2, cell
phone /camera/ video unit. (Oddly, as a screen writer he prefers
paper and twenty-five cent pencils to his laptop.) 2. The ten year
old will not leave home without the following: His Nintendo DS or
Xbox. (His mother refuses to buy him a cell phone or an iPod; he is
too young.) 3. The seven-year-old will not leave home without
feeding and walking her Nintend Dogs (hand-held dog game for
Nintendo DS) and kissing the real dog good bye.
Tech savvy? How about tech addicts? – Ann Krier, Crafter
New consumer, new types of designs.
I just read, (and always read) your newsletter of July 3rd, and
was almost jumping out of my seat while I was reading about the
"Thank goodness" is all I can say. For an industry that
is based on creating and thus theoretically based on creativity I
have seen very little of it. I naively entered into a scene that I
thought would celebrate things that were different, approaches that
were unique, visions that might make us ponder and move to new
I think that the industry has done a disservice to the consumer
("smiling bunnies") by dumbing down projects, not
encouraging consumers to use their own minds, squelching self trust,
and confidence, and reinforcing the ever present inner critic.
So I find it very encouraging that "doing your own
thing" is an issue that the "industry" might be ready
to look at and embrace, not only as a way of making money, but as a
way to encourage and teach crafters to trust their own visions. It
does seem like there is a movement afoot in this direction and I
couldn't be more thrilled!
We have always encouraged our students to think of ways to shift
the task in front of them. Offering a variety of ways to approach a
problem. By nurturing this style of creating objects, I think that
we build up the confidence to apply free thinking to all areas of
our lives. – Tracy Stilwell, Artgirlz, www.artgirls.com
I have ranted periodically about the "smiling bunny
syndrome" for years. My complaint wasn't the excessively cute
designs themselves, but that the industry seemed to focus almost
exclusively on them. The reaction from frustrated designers was
universal: "Don't blame us! This is what the manufacturers
insist upon!" – Mike Hartnett
(Note: To comment on the consumer of the 21st century,
email your thoughts to CLN at email@example.com.
To read previous Business-Wise columns, click on the titles in the