The State of the Yarn Market 2016: Views from TNNA, CYC, and YMN

2016 will bring three different studies of the yarn market, from The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA), Yarn Market News, and the Craft Yarn Council. What is each one good for? How do they differ?

tnna-sosna-logo-2016-smThe State of Specialty NeedleArts (TNNA)

Use this study to understand the state of the fiber arts industry. This consists of fiber artists, specialty retailers, wholesalers, and each market segment (knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, needlepointers, cross-stitch, and embroidery). The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) has sponsored The State of Specialty NeedleArts, including The State of Specialty Yarn, in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2016. This is THE authoritative study of U.S. yarn and needle work market size, growth, and trends. The new study is in the spring of 2016.

This study in 2013 included the results of surveys of 12,475 knitters, 2,892 crocheters, 1,302 weavers, 898 spinners, 841 needlepointers, 2,979 cross-stitchers and embroiderers, 670 yarn retailers, 96 needlepoint retailers, 115 counted thread retailers, and 225 needlearts wholesalers, plus industry interviews and reviews of government and corporate data. All surveys are strictly anonymous.

Tracking Study (Craft Yarn Council)

Use this study to get an in-depth view of knitting and crochet consumers from the perspective of mass-market yarn manufacturers and crafts chain stores. This study only includes a consumer survey. A two-page summary is available from 2014. CYC anticipates releasing a new study in early 2017.

 YMN 2016 Retailer Survey (Yarn Market News)

Use this study to get a view of current issues and trends at specialty yarn retailers. YMN conducted a 50-question survey of yarn retailers in January 2016. They will present the results at their March 2016 conference.

Note: Hart Business Research produces The State of Specialty NeedleArts for TNNA.

Survey Methodology Insights for State of Specialty NeedleArts 2013

Can you trust the results of TNNA’s State of Specialty NeedleArts surveys of needle arts enthusiasts and make business decisions based upon them? Yes. The survey questions are valid and reliable, the number of responses statistically significant, and the sample valid.

All of the questions on The State of Specialty Needle Arts surveys (and any other Hart surveys) have been pretested to ensure they are valid and reliable. This includes administering the questions to people one-on-one and making sure each question is easily understood; if a question is confusing we rewrite it until it is understandable.

The spending questions are intentionally top-level. People would have difficulty remembering exactly what they spent on knitting needles, for example, so spending questions are kept more general. People also get frustrated if questions are too detailed. Ideally the study would pay people to keep spending diaries or conduct monthly spending surveys, but then research costs would rocket to $250,000 or more, which would be crazy for the needlearts industry. (The cost of the TNNA study was way, way less than that.) The per needle artist spending medians and percentages per product category have been validated by the industry and by major retailers, who say it is close to what they see in their own businesses. The spending percentages per product category and spending per person have been consistent over the nine years we have been conducting the surveys.

12,000 responses to a survey (in the case of knitters) is way more than needed, but is great for looking at slices of the market. 450 responses is enough for a valid sample, assuming the sample is not biased. Given the range of sources that contributed respondents, the knitter and crocheter response sets are a valid sample of knitting and crochet enthusiasts. Remember these are enthusiasts and not just any person who picked up a knitting needle in the past year. Also, note this was an online survey available to anyone, so we did not control where responses came from. We did not track IP addresses or referring URLs, to protect anonymity. People reposted the survey links all over the place. The survey did ask people what Web sites, Facebook pages, etc. respondents used, and they were a wide range.

So, in sum, The TNNA State of Specialty NeedleArts studies use a cost-effective research methodology that generates data you can depend on for good business decisions. For more information see the study overview.

How Much Do Knitters and Crocheters Spend on Patterns?

Further Hart analysis of TNNA’s State of Specialty NeedleArts 2013 data reveals that 63% of knitting enthusiasts and 51% of crochet enthusiasts purchased patterns in 2012. Both knitters and crocheters who bought patterns typically spent $50 on patterns that year. 5% of knitter spending and 6% of crocheter spending was on patterns, according to the Market Summary for the State of Specialty NeedleArts 2013. Hart calculates the total enthusiast market for knitting and crochet patterns was about $31 million in 2012.

This data is based upon April 2013 surveys of 12,475 knitting enthusiasts and 2,892 crochet enthusiasts for TNNA’s State of Specialty NeedleArts study, produced by Hart Business Research. Special thanks to the designers at the 2014 San Diego TNNA show who asked this question!

Fiber Arts Participation Increased 2008-2012, NEA Says

The new National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts indicates 31.5 million U.S. adults participated in fiber arts in 2012, an increase of 2 million people since 2008. These participants did weaving, crocheting, knitting, quilting, needlepoint, or sewing. The NEA uses U.S. Census survey data, so it is highly accurate.(See Hart comment on a 2012 NEA fiber arts methodology change.)

The NEA has been tracking fiber arts participation for 20 years. The percentage of adults participating in fiber arts has gone down by about half in that period:

  • 1992: 24.8%
  • 2002: 16.0%
  • 2008: 13.1%
  • 2012: 13.2%

NEA Fiber Arts Participation Methodology Note

This methodology note comments on the posting regarding growth in fiber arts participation.

Hart notes there was one methodology change to the fiber arts group definition in 2012 that likely did not affect participation rates in the group: The NEA added knitting to “weaving, crocheting, quilting, needlepoint, or sewing.”  Hart analysis indicates this did not affect participation rates because the group of adults doing weaving, crocheting, quilting, needlepoint, or sewing already includes nearly all the knitters since so many knitters also do at least one of the other fiber arts. The Craft and Hobby Association Attitude & Usage Study data for the year ending 3/31/2011 shows the average fiber arts (“needle craft” in CHA terminology) participant does 1.6 different fiber arts, as calculated by Hart Business Research. For example, for knitters 48% also crocheted, 25% or more also sewed, and 21% quilted.

U.S. Adult Participation in Creative Activities 1992-2008

More than 33 million adults created a painting, drawing, or sculpture or engaged in printmaking in 2008, according to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Participation in these fine arts grew 14% from 2002 to 2008. Participation in selected fiber arts and materials arts declined and participation in creating photographs and videos grew significantly.

Do not make overly-broad conclusions from this data, as the categories tracked by the NEA study do not include several large closely-related activities: knitting, beading, and mixed media.

Number of U.S. adults creating these works

Number of U.S. adults creating these works in the past 12 months

The data is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, a highly reliable source. Do not sum these numbers, as there are overlaps in participation between these creative activities.

CHA and TNNA Needlearts Market Sizes Compared

The CHA Attitude & Usage Study market sizings for needle crafts are significantly larger than TNNA’s State of Specialty NeedleArts market sizings. Why is this? Basically, the CHA data covers crafters (a large population) and the TNNA data covers enthusiast needleartists (a smaller but higher-spending population).

The National NeedleArts Assocation (TNNA) is an organization of wholesalers and retailers supporting creative enthusiasts who knit, crochet, needlepoint, cross-stitch, embroider, weave, and/or spin yarn. The Craft and Hobby Assocation (CHA) is also a trade assocation, but they support the broader crafts industry. Hart produced The State of Specialty NeedleArts for TNNA in 2005, 2007, and 2010.

Comparison of the two studies:

CHA Attitude & Usage Study TNNA State of Specialty NeedleArts
Market scope Anyone who has made at least one project Enthusiasts – Consider needlearts an essential part of their lives
Average knitter spending on supplies $69 per knitting household (year ending 3/31/11) $807 per knitter(2009)
Needlearts* supplies market size $3.1 billion (2009) $1.15 billion (2009)
Retail channels Crafter spending 58% at   craft/fabric chains and discount stores (2006) Knitter spending 51% at specialty needlearts stores, 12% at craft/hobby chains  (2006)
Reasons for shopping at major channel Crafters: Price, convenience, selection (2006) Wide selection, unusual things, helpful staff, comfortable store (2006)
Percentage who consider selves experts Crafters: 16% “experts” (2006) Knitters: 34%   “experts” (2006)

 *The needlearts include knitting, crochet, needlepoint, cross-stitch, and embroidery.

CHA Attitude & Usage Study market size estimates for four needle crafts, from 2005 to 2010 (click on image to enlarge):

CHA needlecraft market size 2005-2010 graph


What About CHA versus NAMTA Market Sizings for Art Supplies?

What about the CHA Attitude & Usage Study market size for art supplies compared with the International Art Materials Association (NAMTA) Artists & Art Materials Study market size? The same market difference (the bigger casual crafter/artist market versus enthusiast artists) drives the disparity in market size estimates. The CHA Attitude & Usage Study estimated the 2010 “fine arts” supplies market size at about $4 billion. The NAMTA Artists & Art Materials Study estimated 2008 art enthusiast spending on art-related materials and services at $2.8 billion. (The above CHA and NAMTA figures do not include classes or studio-related costs.)

The Final Word

Enthusiast creative segments are always a subset of casual/crafter segments and as such are always smaller. Both market sizings are accurate, they just reflect different market definitions.