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Talking points

Linda Jones, author of The Craft Report, discusses her thoughts on this vital piece of industry research

This year marks the second edition of The Craft Report – what has feedback been like?
It's been so positive. Seeing the keenness of Stitches attendees to hear the results was great and reflects an industry that really wants to listen to its consumers.

The report advises that businesses innovate and respond to trends – do you think this is an area the industry needs to improve upon?
The craft industry is nimble and naturally innovative. That said, there is always more opportunity for innovation and what the Craft Report aims to do is provide intelligence for businesses to help them focus their efforts. It was interesting to note that many respondents started crafting because of stress, illness or to improve wellbeing – how can retailers make the most of this trend? The huge trend for wellness cannot have escaped the notice of many and it's clear that craft has a significant role to play here. The abundance of screens brings with it a natural need for people to find ways to switch off. Crafting has a wonderful ability to absorb those who take part, offering mindful relaxation. To tap into this trend, retailers could look at holding regular mindful crafting evenings for example, simultaneously responding to the need for the high street to offer experiences. The report identified a growth in crafters at the younger end of the market.

Do you think this offers a significant opportunity for retailers?
Absolutely. Every smart business will be looking towards engaging the next generation and the craft industry is fortunate that its younger members have grown up with wellness and sustainability as part of the conversation. This presents opportunities to engage people in craft which as we know can have huge benefits for both mental health and sustainability. The research also revealed that 46 per cent of crafters agreed that environmental factors influenced their choice of craft supplies – do you think this is likely to increase over time, and should the industry be taking steps to address this concern? As we know, all industries should be thinking about environmental factors, now more than ever before. The craft sector is already showing itself to be considering this. Responding to this need makes sense from both a corporate social responsibility and commercial point of view as consumers become more conscious of what they are buying. One of the key issues people raised was plastic packaging, which applies to many industries and is a very hot topic.

Craft businesses need to maximise both their online and offline presence – what are the most important factors in achieving this?
When marketing online, businesses need to think about themselves as content creators. It's not about pushing a sales message but rather about giving something to your audience. That may be tips, a video tutorial, a competition – things which cut through the 'noise'. The same can be said for offline in many ways; it's more and more about creating positive experiences, be that workshops or craft groups. A loyal and engaged audience is far more likely to return for supplies.

What are your thoughts on the health of the UK craft industry?
The industry is in a strong place and remains stable along the political and economic uncertainty that surrounds us – this is a big positive. There are some huge opportunities based on the emerging trends we have seen. Craft has so much to offer to so many people and it will be exciting to see how the industry continues to widen its audience.

Are there plans for a third Craft Report?
Yes! The intention is for this to be the most current and important piece of annual research for the UK craft industry. The findings will again be revealed at Stitches, so watch this space!

Linda Jones is a partner at LJ&P.

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