Why We’re Craving Handmade Now More than Ever

Artisan at work

Handmade products have become a vital retail sales growth story – with no end in sight.

Savvy wholesalers, interior designers and stores are discovering a swelling market for artisan-made home decor and gifts.

And the trend will only keep on growing. IMARC, a leading global market research company, forecasts near-doubling of the North American handicrafts market to $448.5 billion by 2025, up from $242.4 billion in 2019. Retailing Insight Magazine highlights the trend in its March-April 2021 edition.

Consumers and the business owners that supply them have warmed to the unique designs, human stories and opportunity to make positive social impact that such purchases bring to their lives, Alicia Wallace tells Retailing Insight Magazine in the article.

“We are craving human connection, now more than ever. Many of us want to be traveling and connecting with people, but this handcrafting can fill some of that void,” says Wallace, chief operating officer of All Across Africa and its online consumer and wholesale woven goods store, KAZI,

KAZI has been an early leader in this sector growth, known for its striking, unique designs and high-quality woven home decor, baskets and gifts.

With a mission of easing poverty in Africa through ethical, sustainable jobs and markets, KAZI has built a technology, resource and distribution platform that unites a business infrastructure team in the U.S., and sourcing of all-natural local fibers and organic dyes, and more than 4,500 woven-goods artisans in collectives in Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana. “Kazi” means “employment” in swahili. Its work has earned it the Nest Seal of Ethical Handcraft for its Rwanda and Uganda products.

Manish Gupta founded and owns Matr Boomie, a company in Austin that oversees and trains 1,000 artisans in India to work in more than  20 product lines, including jewelry, textiles, wood accessories and bells.

“I always say that our products have a soul,” Gupta tells the magazine. “When you see something that is made by hand, it has an amazing uniqueness to it. The feel of that product is very different compared to something that is made by machine. Also, I think because it’s all an art, it is an inherent beauty to the product. Not only touch and feel, but it reminds people of a distant place and time.”

What’s Behind the Trend?

Industry observers attribute the growth trend in buyer preference for hand-crafted goods to several factors:

  • Technology that has made it easier to build business and social media networks and launch online storefronts

  • Growth in travel as a long-term trend

  • Growth in disposable income

  • Preference for unique goods and gifts with a human story, useful and designed to be experienced

  • Pandemic-induced focus on quality of home life including living spaces, kitchen, home office and garden

“My clay work is intended to be useful,” Virginia-based ceramics specialist Tasha McKelvey tells Retailing Insight Magazine. “This is art that is meant to be touched. In the past, everything we used in the home was made by hand. Today, our homes are filled with stuff stamped out by machines. When we seek out handmade art and goods, we make our surroundings a little more human.”

Many companies that specialize in handmade products go to extra lengths to help their wholesale sellers connect customers with these trends.

“We help the retailers show and share the stories from pictures and quotes,” to help them build their business, KAZI’s Wallace says. KAZI’s online store site describes KAZI’s mission and impact, and brings forward the stories of its artisan weavers. Wholesale sellers, business owners and retail customers quickly realize “things that are handwoven just speak to a much higher quality than what can be found elsewhere.”