While most retailers are seeing sales steadily decline, craft stores hope to remain among the bright spots.
The slumping economy and tightening budgets are prompting more people to make their own Halloween costumes and give hand-crafted gifts for Christmas.
Purveyors of scrapbooking supplies, yarn and beads want to draw those shoppers – adding classes and stocking more inexpensive items.
Dawn Zimba has been looking for a job since moving to Garner from New York in late July. Until she finds one, she and her boyfriend are getting by on his income alone.
To help fill her time and stretch her small holiday gift budget, Zimba turned to jewelry making. She's found some local shops and bought some basic equipment.
This week, she learned how to make a “bauble ring,” a wire ring with beads threaded into the top.
“It's a really cool gift,” she said. “It's something that nobody else will have, and I think that these personal gifts mean a whole lot more.”
After the $50 for pliers and other equipment, Zimba estimated that each ring would cost her about $10 and 30 minutes to produce.
“Once you get all the supplies, it's really not that expensive,” she said.
While an economic slump could lure more make-it-yourselfers, a full-blown recession likely won't spare craft retailers.
Overall, the U.S. craft and hobby market has grown from $23 billion in 2000 to $31.8 billion in 2007, according to the Hobby Industry Association.
However, the industry experienced a rapid rise in sales following the 9-11 terrorist attacks and a subsequent fall in demand, said Mary Stowe, owner of Yarns Etc. in Chapel Hill and Great Yarns in Raleigh.
“The peak was in 2004, and then it went downhill,” she said.
Now that demand is back on the rise, stores have to figure out how to make the most from the upswing.
Craft stores operate on thin margins and have struggled in recent years with increasing competition from the likes of Wal-Mart.
They've been mired in gluts of extra seasonal merchandise that had to be sold at a severe discount and have been working to improve their ordering and inventory systems.
The key may be trying to offer the best balance of quality and value, Stowe said. Traffic at her Chapel Hill store is up about 10 percent during the last two months.
“People I haven't seen in a long time, people who haven't been doing it for a while are coming back,” Stowe said. “People are really looking for good yarns and good quality, but I feel like people are being price-conscious as well.”