Feeling the pinch of the economic downturn, some holiday gift-givers are saving money this year by making their own presents or â€” for those who lack the time or talent â€” buying handmade gifts from others.
Craft stores, from giant chains like Michaels Stores to small scrapbook supply shops, are reporting that sales are higher compared with the last holiday season, and online marketplaces for handmade goods, like Etsy, are seeing a boom in listings and transactions.
Sales at Scrap, a craft supply store in Portland, Ore., were up 33 percent in November compared with the year before. The shopâ€™s customers have made a menorah out of yellow plastic bottle caps, Christmas tree ornaments from wood samples and calendars from fabric and paper collages, according to Sarah Dyer, the manager.
â€œA lot of people are doing a do-it-yourself Christmas, because of the economic downturn but also wanting to make their lives more sustainable, making stuff as opposed to buying more stuff,â€ she said.
The boom in crafts and related supplies contrasts with poor results for traditional retailers, like electronics retailers and department stores. The nationâ€™s overall retail sales in November fell 7.4 percent from the year before, according to the Commerce Department.
The craft sector, which has about $5.9 billion in annual revenue, is â€œoperating in its own little niche,â€ said George Van Horn, a senior analyst at IBISWorld, a research firm. â€œThe number of establishments is growing.â€
On eBay, people bought 13,137 handmade crafts over the last 60 days for an average price of $8.21, and sales of handmade crafts climbed 34 percent, the company said.
On Sept. 29, a day the stock market plunged sharply, Etsy, the leading Web marketplace for handmade goods, had record sales. In November and December, the site has continued to break records. Last month, artists sold $10.8 million of goods on Etsy, up from $4.2 million in November 2007. Some 135,000 people signed up for Etsy memberships and sellers listed 1.1 million new items, both figures more than double the same month last year.