Arts, Crafts & Gifts
China and India—along with several other Asian countries—currently dominate art, crafts, handicraft production worldwide, and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Their position is based largely on low-cost, high volume, Western-designed goods.
Many buyers and consumers however seek unique products made in countries other than China. While the market for purely indigenous designs is limited, “global style”—products that combine ethnic elements with contemporary designs—is a growing category and represents an opportunity for art and handicraft producers.
Low-end (priority on low prices) and high-end (priority on high quality) markets are expanding, while the middle (moderate quality at moderate prices) is relatively stagnant. Whereas competition at the low end is strong and requires significant production capacity, the “luxury” market tends to focus more on distinctive designs, higher quality, and smaller quantities with greater flexibility in pricing.
Distribution channels in end markets are shortening. Large and, increasingly, mid-size retailers are importing directly, while small (and many of the mid-size) retailers continue to purchase merchandise principally, or entirely, from domestic wholesale importers. As this trend continues, many wholesale importers are losing important clients and many independent retailers are struggling to compete in a marketplace dominated by lower-priced “big-box” stores. However, there is evidence that savvy small retailers can compete with distinctive, high-end products. It is important to note that the vast majority of importers, both wholesale and retail, rely on the services of foreign exporters and agents, which many market experts see as critical to the success of arts and handicrafts in developing countries.