What is the Handicraft Industry?

Susan Grindstaff

The handicraft industry is an area of commerce that involves the production and sale of handmade items. These items are sometimes one of a kind pieces of artwork, but in rare cases may include mass-produced handcrafts. Handcrafted items can include most any kind of product, but some common types include pottery, woodwork, and sewing.

Homemade soap is a popular handicraft.
Homemade soap is a popular handicraft.

Decorative items seem to make up a large part of the handicraft industry, probably because products that are considered necessities are well-supplied by mass-market production. For instance, clothing is a necessary item, and has a huge market of buyers. The demand for clothing and the huge numbers necessary to meet that demand result in thousands of manufacturers who produce clothing in massive numbers. Production costs of clothing made in factories using high-tech machinery and assembly lines are much less than individual items made by home tailors. Those who make handcrafted items supplied by mass production often cannot compete with the lower prices of commercial industry.

Handicrafts may be made using yarn.
Handicrafts may be made using yarn.

Many people involved in the handicraft industry sell their wares at local craft fairs and flea markets. They must rent booths at the fairs through the event sponsors, and in many cases, these booths must be booked well in advance. Many of these artists spend a great deal of time traveling to participate in as many fairs as possible. They usually spend a large part of the year producing their crafts, while the rest of their work time is spent traveling to fairs and markets. Travel and booth rental are often a large part of the overhead involved in creating handicrafts.

Handmade jewelry is one kind of handicraft.
Handmade jewelry is one kind of handicraft.

Some artists in the handicraft industry sell their crafts on the Internet. Though these artists sometimes set up their own websites, they usually sell through Internet marketplaces or auction houses that specialize in craft items. Selling online often costs less than participating in craft fairs. In addition, since they spend less time on travel, these workers have more time to spend on craft production. In many cases, because they end up with more items to sell, they may be able to be more competitive in their pricing.

Various kinds of glue may be used in the creation of handicrafts.
Various kinds of glue may be used in the creation of handicrafts.

Another possible revenue stream in the handicraft industry involves direct store sales, because some crafters are able to find retailers who want to carry their line of products. Many crafters prefer this type of arrangement, because they know the items they are producing are pre-sold. In many cases, the retailers may pay advance deposits on their orders, with the balance being paid on delivery. Other retailers may want to arrange sales based on consignment and commission. This means they will display the handicrafts, but will make payment on only those items that sell, with payment amounts determined by percentage.

Handmade clothing items are part of the handicraft industry.
Handmade clothing items are part of the handicraft industry.

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