Why is local, handcrafted growing in popularity?


We are amazed by the growth trend of local made, handcrafted businesses popping up, growing strong and thriving in this economy.  Given the obvious desire for quality and value, it is very understandable that people are turning to local…. but are there factors that are driving this?

OK, its my social science background peeking through the page here…. i always want to find a pattern, or determine the factors in trends.  Sometimes there are obvious factors, forces driving movements.  In other cases the trend is not so obvious.  Here goes – my attempt to explain.

  • Unemployment / job loss – Since 2008 and the market crash an estimated 7.8 million Americans were displaced from their career (cnn.com).  I can tell you that when we both lost our job in 2010 the bills did not stop, the mortgage remained, and the cost of living needed to find a way of being financed by other sources.  It is also estimated by the US government that 2/3 of those 7.8 million jobs will no longer exist in the market.  Replaced by automated processes, outsourced to India or China, or another country where wages are cheap and there is no need to set aside for retirement, health care, or benefits.  Or it is just plain reduction in the amount of staff needed to function.  That is well over 5 million jobs – an unprecedented shift in the economy of our nation, and our world.  I think this graph, found on the us labor statistics website clarifies the loss of jobs in a profound way. (black line is full time jobs, red is part time)
  • employment usa
  • Market hunger for better quality – Mass produced products have been consumed for years, but many of us have grown tired of not so well made clothes, soap that is loaded with chemicals, food grown on some macro commercial farm far from home and most likely genetically modified to maximize production (at the sacrifice of quality), and meat laden with growth hormones, chemicals and god knows what. There is a growing voice in the market asking for local, desiring to know that Joe the butcher just prepared those steaks, or Suzie just collected those eggs in her chicken coop in the back yard.  Fresher, and having knowledge of how the products were made, grown, created.
  • Market hunger to support the local economy – The economy of previous generations was so much more kept close to home.  The farmer in the area brought his eggs, chickens, produce to the local market, where they were sold to people who lived there.  Revenue stayed local.  Workers were hired locally, paid local taxes, built their life supporting their own community or region.  With the rise in national chains, and large corporations the local money does not stay here.  When you buy something from Target or Walmart a substantial portion of your spending dollars goes to another community, pays a corporate salary in Bentonville Arkansas, or Chicago Illinios.  We see that buying that product is paying someone locally, keeping their lights on, their bills paid.  We want to strengthen the local economy, and give dignity back to people as they fulfill needed purpose in our community.
  • Desire for a return to a sense of community – At some point the cold, distant experience we have come to accept began to shatter.  We wanted to return to shopping at a local bakery where the person at the counter knows our name, our likes, our buying habits.  We wanted to know who we buy our products from, and how they make them.  We want to know and purchase quality goods while we encourage our neighbors, and the market supports the desire to shop local.
  • We are attracted to success stories – its part of the fiber of Americans to pull yourself up by your boot straps, and dig deep to find your purpose.  In our case we spent over 30 years working for other people (which is great) but realized that the stress, the disappointments and the traumatic blow of loosing your job needed to be overcome.  We discovered a strength in our core that never was visible before.  And we love the release of creativity that has propelled us to develop Images in Bloom.  We are attracted to great stories of successful people who worked through the lumps, the turns, the ashes left when life blew up.  And we want to help others find their success.

Those are my theories on why there is a rise in the numbers of people growing local, making local, and selling handcrafted.  I would love to hear your theories as well.  Please leave a comment.