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By Karen Booy
as excerpted from the CRAFTLINK Newsletter.


A daily craft show. A year-round showroom for your crafts!

In my dealings with professional crafters and those crafters just starting the business there is one common element -- most crafters have difficulty in promoting and selling their own product. After 20 years of selling my own crafts I still find this (and bookkeeping) to be the most stressful of all jobs.

Could you imagine selling your crafts daily, benefiting from the promotions, advertising and security of a professional retail business? Even the bookkeeping is done for you, taxes are collected and paid on your behalf and you receive a monthly statement listing all itemized sales along with a check! All this is done in a retail location with high traffic and YOU don't have to be there. You can even expand your business into new markets without ever leaving home. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading!

The first craft mall was open by Rufus Coomer in 1988 in Azle, Texas. It was 400 sq. ft and was full of handmade crafts. The store is still open today and is a local landmark. Today Coomers has 35 stores in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio with plans for more! Coomers services over 6,000 crafters in 9 states paying out over $2 million a month.

A recipe for success. . . customers meet crafters. In essence, the customers have the opportunity to shop at more than 350 shops all under one roof. In turn, the craft producer is exposed to thousands of craft connoisseurs. Craft malls have emerged across the United States and are now beginning to make a serious presence in Canada.

Craft malls have risen to meet the needs of the increasing number of professional crafters. Each mall is a year-round showplace for craft products. Many are open six days a week. They accept checks and credit cards, allow for lay-aways and special orders, collect and pay all sales tax, provide payment twice a month and keep accurate records for inventory. All of these features are available for a single monthly fee.

The craft malls reach consumers through extensive advertising and promotion which a craftsperson would not be able to afford. Advertising often includes radio, newspaper, in-store advertising, special events, contests, monthly sales and even television! Their professionally trained sales staff is familiar with the various crafts and can assist customers.

Craft malls range in size from 400 sq.ft. to 15,000 with 200-350 crafters in each location. Crafters pay anywhere from $50.00/month to license a wall up to $300.00 for a larger booth. Coomers Malls in the United States reported $15 million to $20 million in sales. The average item was $6.00 with the average total customer sale between $35.00 to $40.00. The crafter can make from hundreds to thousands of dollars each month depending on their booth size and how many mall locations they are in. Many crafters are in their local location with several locations out of their state!

Crafters include housewives, retired (but not "tired") persons, and many people "moonlighting" in addition to a full-time job. Approximately 25% of the crafters depend on the income solely, with that number increasing as more crafters benefit from the marketing help of the craft mall and the resulting increase in sales.

The professional crafter is becoming more business -oriented and many craft malls offer business training including merchandising, supply purchasing, pricing and book-keeping.

The rapid growth in the United States of craft malls emphasizes the win-win partnership between crafter and mall owner. Is this trend going to be short-lived? With so many of today's products mass-produced and of poor quality there is a definite trend to return to products that are hand-crafted. With our busy lives of high-tech, low-touch there is a movement to the nostalgic return of "the good old days." Home decorating books and the number of "golden oldie" radio stations attest to this fact. Crafts are here to stay. Crafters need to focus on quality of supplies, creating heirlooms for tomorrow.

What advice does Rufus Coomer offer to professional crafters? "First of all, you're in the right business. You are starting exactly the way Henry Ford and many other enterprising business people started. Take time and perfect your craft to an art form; only then will it become solely yours. When you can develop a style that is yours alone, the demand for your craft will be there."

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