Museum shops are key outlets for craft sales

Jonathan Knott, 01.06.2020
Physical and online shops are significant buying channels for the UK’s highest-spending craft buyers, says the Crafts Council
Physical and online museum shops are important hubs within the UK’s rapidly growing crafts market, new research for the Crafts Council has found.

A study into UK craft makers, buyers and sellers carried out last year by Morris Hargreaves MacIntyre divides craft buyers into seven different demographic profiles.

Museum and gallery shops were found to be key purchasing channels for the highest-spending, most adventurous craft buyers.

Twenty-one per cent of proto-collectors – the highest-spending group of buyers – had bought from a physical museum or gallery shop. People in this group had spent more than £200 on their highest purchase. They were more likely than average to be male (56%) and have a degree (46%).

And 21% of adventurers – the second highest-spending group – had bought from an online museum or gallery shop. Adventurers had similar buying habits to proto-collectors, but their highest purchase was lower, between £70 and £200. 52% of this group was female and 39% had a degree.

For both, the most popular physical buying channels were craft fairs (used by 46% of proto-collectors and 56% of adventurers) and the most popular online channel was the Etsy marketplace (used by 52% of both groups).

Together, these two groups form 11% of the UK’s craft buying market (5.2 million people).

The Craft Council’s research also examined the market for UK craft in New York and Los Angeles. It found that among existing buyers of UK craft, about a quarter had bought craft objects from a museum or gallery online shop.

A comparison with previous research data found that the proportion of people buying craft in England has risen from 6.9 million in 2006 to 31.6 million.

The demographics of craft buyers have also shifted. They are now “younger, more ethnically diverse, less dominated by graduates and with lower specialist knowledge”.

The proportion of craft buyers under 35 has risen from from 17% in 2006 to 32%.

UK-wide figures are not available for previous years. The Craft Council says “it is reasonable to assume that the trends observed in England have been replicated in the other countries of the UK too”.

The organisation says the research shows craft is “no longer a peripheral or isolated area of specialist interest: it is now firmly established in the mainstream”.

Its report says the growing popularity of hand-made objects has been partly driven by the public’s desire for “authenticity, for experiences, for ethical and sustainable consumption”.

“Further impetus comes from a concern for wellness and mindfulness, as well as the growing need to switch-off from electronic devices,” it adds.

The growth of digital selling platforms is also identified as a significant factor in the changing face of the craft market.

The report identifies parallels between the way people engage with craft and museums. Some makers, it says, are offering “behind the scenes” tours to show people their creative processes.

The authors say a similar phenomenon can be observed among museum visitors, “who want to understand conservation processes or how curators and designers approach selecting and displaying objects in exhibitions.”

The Crafts Council was due to open a gallery in London this spring, but this has been postponed until further notice due to the coronavirus crisis.

The £17m Museum of Making was also due to open at Derby Silk Mill this autumn. All Derby Museums sites are now temporarily closed until further notice.

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