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Holidays Took a Handmade Turn This Year

Holidays Took a Handmade Turn This Year Credit: Dreamstime.com

While many recipients of holiday gifts will be rushing to the mall and big box stores with receipts in hand this week, there are many others who will be home cherishing their one-of-a-kind handmade holiday gifts.

Though electronics and clothes will always be tops on the holiday wish list, those looking for something a bit more personal are increasingly turning toward businesses that sell handmade items, experts say.

"There is this push today to buy locally from individual businesses, instead of going to Target or the mall," said Rachel Herzog, owner of Tickleworm, which turns used wool and cashmere sweaters into pouches, cases, cozies and scarves.

Herzog does the majority of her business between September and January.

Timothy Adam, a seller on mega online handmade-marketplace Etsy and author of "How to Make Money Using Etsy: A Guide to the Online Marketplace for Crafts and Handmade Products" (John Wiley & Sons, 2011) also does the majority of his business around the same time of year – between late October and December.

"My first Christmas, I was so busy that I had to have a friend come in to help push out orders," Adam told BusinessNewsDaily of his welded metal furniture and jewelry.

During the holiday season in particular, people are looking for unique and one-of-a-kind gifts, which Adam said contributes to handmade businesses' increase in sales.

"You know you aren't getting some piece of junk from China," he said of handmade goods.

Proof of handmade goods' popularity lies in Etsy retailers' record sales during last month's Cyber Monday.

Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson said the number of shops with sales that day increased by 61 percent from last year, and average sales per shop increased 11 percent.

"More than 15-million visitors came to the site between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, representing a strong surge in shoppers looking for handmade, personal gifts this holiday season," Dickerson wrote in his blog.

Tammy Riley has been selling her handmade goods, including knitted and felted ornaments, for the last four years, and says she definitely sees an increase of business around the holidays.

"I think because handmade goods are more precious than mass-produced goods, they tend to be saved for special-occasion gift giving," Riley said. "I have a lot of customers tell me, 'I'd like this for myself, but I shouldn't,' and then they often will buy that same item for a friend or loved one as a gift."

Being the season of giving, there are gifts needed for family gatherings, parties, surprise guests, caregivers, and hostess gifts, according to Marsha McCreery, owner of Nest Haven Studio, which offers nature-inspired art, jewelry and fashion.

"A handmade gift is so much more personal," McCreery said. "It conveys the thoughtfulness behind it."

Consumers' collective turn to handmade items isn't just a holiday trend; Etsy statistics show sales there have grown from $87.5 million in 2008 to more than $467 million this year, demonstrating an overall rise in such goods' popularity.

Herzog attributes the vast growth in part to a renewed interest in buying locally produced goods.

"You are able to put money back locally, and it is something made with love," Herzog said.  "It's not just something you're buying in mass quantity."

Adam said the ease with which Etsy provides handmade retailers with the opportunity to sell their goods also has helped the industry's growth.

"You can get a small business started for no cost at all, besides the listing of your items for 20 cents," Adam said.


Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.