As retailers struggle, profits are rising at homecraft outlets such as Hobbycraft – and, managers insist, not just because customers need to save money
It’s supposedly the thought that counts at Christmas, and at the Havant branch of craft chain Hobbycraft, glitter glue and pinking shears are much in demand as the DIY Christmas card and decoration industry comes to life.
Whether because of fears about household finances or an urge to be creative inspired by TV shows like Kirstie’s Homemade Home and The Great British Bake Off, craft stores are enjoying a renaissance as Britons reconnect with childhood hobbies and at the same time look to add some pizzazz to Christmas gifts.
Waving her hand over packets of make-your-own tree ornaments and Christmas card kits, Catriona Marshall, the boss of Hobbycraft, is adamant that demand is not driven by austerity and thrift. “I knitted my mum a jumper and hat for Christmas last year, and no matter how much I’d spent I couldn’t have given her something she liked more. It is part of a backlash against everything being disposable and electronic.”
There is little sales data available on what is still a niche market, but Marshall estimates the broad church of hobbyists, which includes knitters, embroiderers and model-makers, spend close to £3bn a year. Hobbycraft, which is owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint, saw sales jump 12% to £106.5m last year, while profits before interest payments and other financial charges rose 9% to £15.6m.
On the same measure, vintage-style homewares chain Cath Kidston also saw sales break through £100m and earnings jump 13% to £19m as its distinctive brand of “kitchenalgia”, which embraces the image of the 1950s housewife, proves irresistible to a generation who perhaps idealise rather than practise domesticity.
Kidston herself, a cousin of rival style guru Allsopp, drives custom to her stores with regular craft books such as this year’s Make Your Own Christmas Decorations, which promises “everything you need to sew festive felt ornaments” ranging from Christmas puddings to snowmen.
The chain’s buying director, Lisa Illis, says the chain cannot keep up with demand for places on its paid-for demonstration evenings: knitting and crochet are this year’s big hits and have drawn a surprising level of interest from younger shoppers. “At this time of year, I think people quite like making things themselves,” she says. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a thrift thing although these days people are keen for things to last longer.”
Richard Cope at analysts Mintel Inspire agrees with Marshall that the growing interest in handicrafts is a way for Britons to express themselves: “When everyone is walking around with Kindles and PCs and the same MP3 player, handmade items are a real opportunity to express personality. Since the digital age, things like books, DVDs, records and CDs, which people used as props, have started to disappear and this is a reaction.”
Hobbycraft thinks of its customers as three distinct types of women, whom they call “Jean”, “Emma” and “Kate”. Jean is a multi-skilled homemaker of the postwar generation. There are no panicky midnight gluing sessions to catch the last post for her, explains Marshall: “Jean will have finished making her cards by now.”
Emma, meanwhile, has children under 10 and is looking for activities both for them and for herself. “Emma won’t cross-stitch her cards but is looking for ideas,” says Marshall, who fits knitting and clay modelling (“I make little bears”) into a schedule split between her home in Cheshire and the south coast. Emma “sees crafts as a good thing for the children and an alternative to sitting in front of the TV or digital toys”.
Finally, the retailer has identified Kate as a target. She is “into crafting in a serious way” and entrepreneurial with it, perhaps selling her wares on craft websites such as Etsy and Folksy.
Etsy, for example, attracts 42m visitors each month and has increased sales from a standing start in 2005 to $525.6m in 2011. Many of Hobbycraft’s staff trade on Etsy, says Marshall, and work at its stores as an extension of their interest. Assistants in Hobbycraft don’t ask “can I help you?”; they inquire “what are you making?”
But with households squeezed by higher food and fuel bills, Hobbycraft’s customers are being as careful with their money as with their glue guns. “We’re feeling it at the moment,” says Marshall. “Like everybody else we have a bit of catching-up to do for Christmas. The market is very deal-led and people are tight for cash.” She adds: “The Jeans carry on spending because that’s what they do, but you have to work harder for Emma.”
In the “papercraft” department there is a large selection of rubber stamps for use on cards, offering messages such as “May your day be filled with fun and laughter”. One suggests “Keep calm and craft on”: perhaps not a bad idea in troubled times.
Jean-Paul Agon says François Hollande’s plan for 75% tax on earnings over €1m will hit France’s competitiveness
France will find it difficult if not impossible to recruit talented business leaders to work in the country if the government presses ahead with its “supertax” band of 75%, the head of L’Oréal said on Wednesday.
President François Hollande’s Socialist government will unveil its austerity budget for 2013 on Friday, which will include tax hikes and budget cuts to save €30bn and bring France’s public deficit down to the 3% of GDP he promised in his election campaign.
Jean-Paul Agon, the chief executive of the world’s biggest cosmetics company, told the Financial Times: “If there is such a new tax rule, it’s going to be very, very difficult to attract talent to work in France, almost impossible; at a certain level, of course.”
Hollande has pledged to impose the 75% rate on anyone earning more than €1m a year, a move popular with the public, but that has brought criticism from business leaders who fear it will hit their competitiveness, make hiring the best managers difficult and provoke a rush of wealthy taxpayers leaving the country.
Agon was one of 16 wealthy French business leaders who signed a public petition last year offering to pay more tax as a gesture of “national solidarity”. Asked by the FT whether he thought they should be paying 75%, he replied: “No, clearly not.”
Earlier this month, Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury goods group Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, admitted he had applied for Belgian citizenship. The announcement caused a storm but Arnault insisted he was not trying to avoid paying taxes in France.
Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay said he is “outraged” at the PQ’s desires to mainstream secularism and for also letting a PQ candidate “who doesn’t understand our culture at all” guide the non-religious movement.
Excerpt from: Saguenay mayor attacks PQ candidate’s foreign background
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French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault is due to meet PSA Peugeot Citroen’s chief executive Philippe Varin on Monday amid growing tensions between the two sides.
See the article here: Peugeot in new government talks
Although a cabinet minister has become a casualty, and the conflict between the Quebec Liberal government and student protesters remains unresolved, Premier Jean Charest may emerge as the winner in the dispute, some observers say.
Read more: Can Jean Charest survive the student strike?
OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – May 10, 2012) - In celebration of all new development and wonderful change occurring here in the Quartier Vanier BIA, John Therien, chair will officially kick start the event at 250 Montreal Road – site of the new PLACE VANIER on Friday May 11th at 10 AM adjacent to Jean-Coutu Pharmacy. There is a broom and a T-shirt for anyone who wishes to help us make our commercial zone the cleanest, funkiest and most beautiful in all of Ottawa!
See the original post: Media Advisory: Join Us at our 2012 Broom ‘n Groom Event