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Marketing Crafts and Tourist Products

September/October 1993

If you sell crafts, a study on tourists' shopping habits, by the North Central Regional Extension Service, may give you ideas for meeting consumer desires and increasing sales.

A research team from Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska compiled information from 1,400 individuals on marketing crafts and tourists' shopping habits. Shopping is an important activity for tourists. After meals and lodging, they spend most of their tourist dollars on clothing, crafts, and local food products. Almost 70 percent buy gifts for future events and for mementos.

Tourists want crafts to use and display in their homes. They enjoy seasonal items. Their favorite craft medium is wood, followed by items made from other natural materials and fabric. They appreciate appealing colors, design, high quality workmanship, a fair price, and innovation. They look for items that can be used (not just displayed) in their homes, things to add to collections, and jewelry. Their craft purchases often have symbolic value; they may become valued reminders of the places they visited, especially if the crafts reflect local sites or events. Tourists appreciate neatly arranged displays that show how to use the crafts. They appreciate written information on care, safety, and materials used. The tourists surveyed indicated there were not enough crafts made from leather and glass, hand-crafted toys, jewelry, and clothing. They said there were too many crafts made of fabric, paint, and paper and crafts for display (not to use).

Tourists find places to buy crafts by reading state travel office-generated information; newspaper and magazine articles; guidebooks; talking to friends, hotel personnel and local residents; and from local newspaper ads.

Tourists spend from $5 to $30 per item, depending on for whom they are buying.

They value sales personnel who are pleasant and knowledgeable, but will let them browse.

The most successful craft producers promoted themselves and their products by providing business cards and hang tags, signing their work, using logos, and providing written data. They worked an average of 55 hours a week, concentrated on one particular medium, had few items in a product line, identified themselves as artist or designer rather than artisan, craftsman, folk artist, or hand crafter. Over 65 percent were male. Males charged two to four times the amount that women charged.

The average craft producer was 47 years old, from a rural community, educated through or beyond high school, had been in business nine years, contributed 25 percent of the household's income. Primary media used were wood, fabric, and clay. They sold most products at art and craft fairs and from their own homes.

The researchers suggested that to increase income, crafts producers should:

  • Review promotional practices.
  • Review prices.
  • Provide tourist items for which demand exceeds availability.
  • Continue to create original designs.
  • Review professional work habits.
  • Stay alert to tourist interests.
  • Consider "value added services"--gift wrap, shipping, monogramming, accepting credit cards.
  • Provide written information on care, safety, and use.
  • Display crafts to show possible uses.
  • Localize products by incorporating a name or design motif.
  • Be friendly, but let people browse.
  • Explain craft techniques and ways to use the crafts.
  • Explain which items make good gifts.

For more information:

Marketing Crafts and Other Products to Tourists: A Guide for Craft Producers, Craft Retailers, Communities, Tourist Attractions, and Hospitality Services. 1992. North Central Regional Extension Pub. #445. University of Nebraska, IANR Communications and Computing Services, Lincoln, NE 68583-0918; (402) 472-3023.