Craft and making rises in popularity during pandemic with Portsmouth shops reporting surge of buyers and sellers

WHETHER it’s a drive to be more ethical, shop locally or to simply enjoy hand-made products, the rise of the British craftmaker seems unstoppable.

By Kimberley Barber
Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 11:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 2:54 pm

Today you can buy a plethora of hand-crafted products, everything from Donald Trump socks, candles that smell like retirement homes, earrings that look like Greggs sausage rolls, taxidermy broccoli to pig-shaped handbags.

Figures from The Crafts Council show there are at least 32,000 professional makers in England and Wales, generating a turnover of £826m - a number which it admits could easily be three or four times higher.

In Portsmouth, Portsmouth Creates has been holding markets inside the former Debenhams unit in Palmerston Road, Southsea, giving local crafters and makers somewhere to showcase and sell their wares.

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Claire Weir of Clairabows. The first We Create Market, held last month in the former Debenhams site, Palmerston Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (120920-05)

Organiser Tim Rusby said their last We Create market saw more than 10,000 people attend over two weekends, to buy from the 125 vendors.

He said: ‘The great thing about this city is that it does not take handouts. It fights. It has got grit. People are keen to help themselves. They don’t sit on their hands, they get up and do things, and that’s what we are seeing with this surge of makers. People are taking the opportunity to express themselves, and a by-product of that is seeing if somebody else will buy some of things that they enjoy making.’

Portsmouth Creates is just one of some 4,000 craft fairs held each year in the UK.

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The We Create Market is set to expand for October. Picture: Ming Wu/We Create

But with lockdown restrictions forcing their temporary closure, many are also moving online using digital tools like Zoom and Facebook in order to keep their presence.

Online platforms have fuelled much of this crafting growth: in December 2018, Etsy said it had 220,000 active sellers in the UK with a further 9,000 makers on Folksy.

Etsy’s latest figures show that in the first six months of 2020, its sales grew by a huge 71 per cent year on year.

With online giant Amazon offering a way for small sellers to operate under its Amazon Handmade banner, stalwart eBay promoting itself as the best way to make a profit and Facebook, which has 45 million users in the UK, relaunching its free-to-list Facebook Marketplace in 2016, making a profit from your hobby has never been easier.

Seeded in Albert Road, Southsea

A tax break means people no longer need to report to HMRC the first £1,000 they make from selling goods, including via platforms like Facebook Marketplace.

And not only are people selling, people are buying - with craft sales rising from £883m in 2006 to over £3bn in 2019, with latest figures showing that 73 per cent of the UK population has bought craft this year.

Popular TV shows such as The Great British Sewing Bee, The Repair Shop and The Great Pottery Throw Down, have further fuelled the UK’s population to get making.

Stores selling craft have reported a boom in sales too. Hobbycraft, which has 99 stores in the UK including in Havant, saw a 200 per cent increase in online sales since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with items such as a giant set of 1,000 craft pieces for £6 and soap-making kits for £15 among its top sellers.

The first We Create Market, held last month in the former Debenhams site, Palmerston Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (120920-04)

Seeded in Albert Road Southsea has also seen a welcome rise in custom.

Owner Alexsis Seed said: ‘I have seen a rise in crafting and being creative in general.

‘People seem to be creating more as they have more time and for those on furlough it's a great way of being mindful and keeping productive.

‘Even for those who were at home with the children in the first lockdown, it was a great way of coming together and perhaps learning something new and building skills together.

‘People seem to be making more in general, but seasonally this is normally the time of year that people pick their knitting or crochet up again as the nights are drawing in and there really isn't much on the TV.’

A Hobbycraft store. Picture: PA

She said that the shop has also seen people shopping for things to make as Christmas gifts - something she hopes will continue.

She said: ‘I have seen more people making things for gifting and it will be really interesting to see how this affects the big sellers.

‘I feel the crafting Christmas is going to be big this year as people are being more mindful about 'useful' gifts that are as personal as they are special.’

The News has launched its #supportlocal campaign to promote the many good reasons to shop locally this year, to help local traders and to keep money in the local economy. We are encouraging shoppers to buy online from local retailers during lockdown while the shops are closed.

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