It’s not that long ago when pastimes such as knitting, embroidery and watercolour painting, evoked images of a silver haired lady rocking back and forth in an armchair. But not anymore. In 2020, crafting is cool. And the craft industry, from small and local business to major retailers, are feeling the change in sentiment. The 2020 Australian Christmas Shopping Intentions – Consumer Outlook and Covid-19 impacts report found that more Australians are planning to include craft items on th
their Christmas shopping lists this year, with the percentage up from 10 per cent to 16 per cent year-on-year. Craft items are proving particularly popular with the 18-34 age group, with 24 per cent of this group intending to purchase craft items for Christmas 2020, the report found. Danny Lattouf, chief strategy officer at The General Store, told Inside Retail that the rise in popularity of craft products is likely due to restrictions and lockdowns associated with Covid-19. “If you’re going to be stuck at home, may as well do something interesting,” Lattouf reasoned. “Whilst once upon a time craft was used to save money, and in many cases, it skipped a generation, it’s now about self-expression and individuality versus a cost saving exercise.” Lattouf expects these specialist retailers and those that dabble in the category to benefit from the resurgence of crafting and DIY. “I think we should keep an eye out for retailers like Spotlight here, they have seen an incredible growth in this space as a core offering. Also retailers and brands like Nike that offer extensive customisation (beyond putting your name on something) will be well-served by this increase,” he said. Discount crafts a winner Even before the pandemic, discount retailer Kmart was seeing growth in the category and doubled its range mid year to meet demand. A spokesperson for the retailer said that artistry and painting in general is proving very popular at the moment, particularly watercolour painting. “This includes wall art where we have seen our community creating their own art and expressing their creativity. Paint By Numbers is also another popular line for beginner artists, and there is a return to nostalgic activities like hand lettering, calligraphy, adult colouring, sketching and drawing,” the Kmart spokesperson said. In terms of crafting, macramé craft and DIY home décor have been popular. “For example: make your own raffia mirror, wreath making, a modern take on crochet, knitting, punch needle craft, woven wall décor and jewellery making. Crafting with air dry clay and ceramics is also trending.” Kmart customers are turning to this category for both leisure and DIY purposes. Those exploring art and craft as a pastime are focused on the positive impact on their health and wellbeing through mindfulness and self-care activities. “We have seen the community wanting to take time away from technology and the business of day-to-day life to partake in activities that are relaxing, [where they are] learning new skills – there is a real sense of achievement in creating something from scratch,” said the spokesperson. “For DIY activities, we have seen the community love to create home décor items with their own unique twists and special touches that are budget-friendly and thrifty!” Social media has been a big inspiration for consumers to get creative, with creators across platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram sharing their passion and skills with others. And what better time than a lockdown to explore a new hobby? There are a plethora of Instagram accounts from individuals dedicated to showcasing their Kmart purchases, many of which offer tutorials on flower arrangements and home decor creations. View this post on Instagram Hanging Flower Arrangement ☺️ Using @kmartaus flowers and glue gun and some creative juices and off you go . Anyway help or questions happy to help . . #kmarthackqueen #kmartbyyou #kmartaddict #kmarthome #fauxflowers #myhomevibe #flowers #flowers #ourstyle #kmarthacks #hangingflowers #whitefliwers #weddinginspo #weddingideas #florist #floristsofinstagram #florustlife #homeshare #sharemystyle #interior_and_living #interior_delux #flowerarrangement #flowersty A post shared by Kmart Hack Queen (@kmarthackqueen) on Sep 8, 2020 at 5:06pm PDT “Social media is a wonderful channel to share a person’s personality or creativity. The Kmart team gets so much joy from seeing the incredible and creative ways our Kmart community use their arts and craft products and showcase them in their home. It also allows us to listen to customer feedback and apply learnings to future product ranges,” the retailer said. It’s a category Kmart expects “will continue to be strong” into the Christmas period, as consumers get creative with DIY Christmas cards, decorations, wrapping and gifts. Where are the specialist craft retailers? It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Australia’s craft retailers however. Last month, Riot Art & Craft shut all 56 of its stores after the company went into liquidation. While the retailer didn’t give an explanation for the downfall of the company, staff reported that shelves were left almost empty for weeks, despite assurances that they would be replenished. There are limited specialist craft store chains in the market now, many operate solely online, while larger department stores like Kmart draw in customers looking for more affordable items. Inside Retail contacted Eckersley’s and Spotlight for comment on their business performance this year, but did not receive a response ahead of publication. There are plenty of smaller businesses that will likely benefit from this rising trend, however. Support grows for local craft businesses Given the uncertainty that marred the most part of this year, communities have realised the importance of supporting local businesses. A trend that is likely to further boost smaller craft businesses and retailers. Nabih Awad, managing director of Retail Safari, said Covid-19 has brought about stronger levels of community solidarity and support for local businesses. “The trend of Australians buying locally manufactured products and supporting their local communities will be strong this Christmas,” he told Inside Retail. “We’re seeing that Australians are tending to switch their spending to prioritise purchasing from local businesses and producers, both online and offline where possible, by visiting local neighbourhood stores and their websites.” Awad said this has encouraged local businesses to provide quality local and unique products, and to provide more memorable experiences for customers. A lift for the craft community Last month, Expertise Events launched a new website and app dedicated to Australia’s craft community called Craft 365. The online marketplace showcases the wares of retailers and exhibitors and offers access to workshops and online classes for crafters to hone their skills. Gary Fitz-Roy, Expertise Events managing director, said there’s been a clear trend of people wanting to go back to basics this year. “‘Younger’ and ‘new’ people have taken up craft and hobbies to not only pass time but also create new clothes or household items. There was already a shift as we value something handmade and with some personal meaning behind it, rather than imported cheap products and Covid has accelerated the take-up. This is also reflected on sites like Etsy, as it serves as an income during tough times,” Fitz-Roy told Inside Retail. Improvements and increased trust in online shopping has also made a big difference to the industry. “Years ago, when you would buy online, a lot of craft people were burnt from buying things where their colour wasn’t true from online to reality, or it was inferior in quality and the return process was a nightmare. There has been a definite return to support and buy local,” Fitz-Roy said. “Also a number of designers and their designs in Australia suit the market, whereas a number of overseas designs just don’t connect to the Australian market. In saying that, sewing machine companies (all overseas owned) can’t keep up with the demand and a number are sold out of models until next year!” This high demand for sewing machines is understandable, when the top three crafts according to Craft365’s research are quilting/patchwork, embroidery and knitting. “These make sense as during lockdown, you can do all three are things by hand and sit in front of the TV or on a balcony,” he said.