Handmade businesses are booming

These are 2023’s biggest British crafting trends.

The UK’s not short of creative talent. And there’s a growing number of book binders, crocheters, jewellers (and plenty others) monetising their skill across the country.

It’s an industry that’s characterised by countless niches, and it’s that diversity which makes it hard to spot industry-wide trends. So we analysed the UK’s most populated 50 cities to get an insight into pockets of creativity and crafting trends across the country.

How we did it

We looked at the number of handmade Etsy and eBay products for sale per 100,000 people, the availability of nearby craft courses and arts and craft shops per 100,000 people, and the annual Google search demand for popular crafts in each location.

We also surveyed 250 owners of handmade crafting businesses in the UK to find out what it’s really like to run a craft business and find out more about the top 2023 crafting trends.

For those looking to start a business at home themselves, we’ve investigated demand, success and affordability of handmade businesses, as well as the biggest challenges to watch out for as a business owner.

Cards are the most common handmade businesses

An informative image presenting a statistical breakdown of the ten most common handmade crafting businesses in the United Kingdom. The image highlights the diverse range of creative ventures, providing insights into the thriving craft industry in the UK

Hand making cards is the most common craft business in the UK, closely followed by the traditional art of weaving (where two sets of threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric).

Surprisingly, fletching - crafting feathers on arrows to help them fly - makes it into the top 10. Bows and arrows have been used for thousands of years, and good fletchers were in high demand during big battles. Though we’d guess people who fletch and sell their wares on Etsy today might be doing so for different reasons.

Walsall is a handmade business hotspot

An engaging image presenting a statistical overview of the top ten handmade business capitals in the United Kingdom. The image highlights the vibrant cities where handmade businesses thrive, showcasing the entrepreneurial spirit and creative endeavors in each location.

We analysed the nation’s 50 most-populated cities for the number of handmade Etsy and eBay products, craft courses, art and craft shops and searches about craft.

The West Midlands market town of Walsall has by far the highest number of handmade items listed on eBay, with an impressive 3,998 per 100,000 people. It’s also the clear winner for the number of arts and crafts shops, with 27 for every 100,000 people.

Newcastle comes in second, with the most craft-related searches relative to its population (3,353 per 100,000 people).

While scoring fourth in overall rankings, Manchester was the clear winner for the number of handmade Etsy products – with 9,045 per 100,000 people.

Dudley is the perfect training ground for an aspiring craftsperson

It has the highest combined number of courses and arts and crafts shops with 76 per 100,000 people.

Walsall is a close second, with 75, and Nottingham comes in third with 65.

RankCityTotal courses and shops per 100,000 people
1Dudley76
2Walsall75
3Nottingham65
4Wolverhampton59
5Ipswich57

Manchester sells more handmade items than anywhere else

Manchester sells more items on eBay and Etsy combined than any other UK city. An impressive 10,237 handmade products are listed per 100,000 people.

Nottingham is next up with significantly less at 6,115.

Top 5Craft listings per 100,000 peopleBottom 5Craft listings per 100,000 people
Manchester10,237Birkenhead714
Nottingham6,115Newport908
Cambridge5,845Sunderland1,110
Newcastle5,673Southend-on-Sea1,142
Norwich5,038Preston1,152

TikTok is bursting with crafting content, so we analysed a seedlist of crafts to see which were trending on the platform.

Crochet tops the list, with a staggering 14.9 billion views with the hashtag #crochet. Calligraphy comes next with 10.4 billion views, followed by origami on 6.7 billion.

It’s no surprise that our survey found 37% of business owners use social media platforms to market their handmade items. 21% of respondents said they make most of their money through social media platforms.

The top five most popular crafts according to TikTok

RankCraftTotal TikTok views
1Crochet14,900,000,000
2Calligraphy10,400,000,000
3Origami6,700,000,000
4Embroidery5,100,000,000
5Carpentry4,800,000,000

Google search data also shows that weaving is a top 2023 craft trend, with 1.2 million searches each month. It’s also the fastest growing in popularity, with a 232% increase year-on-year.

Other fast-growing crafts include fletching with a 173% year-on-year increase in monthly searches (to 110,000) and cabinet making with an 82% increase (to 90,500).

The top five most popular crafts according to Google search volume

RankCraftMonthly search vol
1Weaving1,220,000
2Origami1,000,000
3Calligraphy823,000
4Crochet673,000
=4Embroidery673,000
=4Carpentry673,000
5Mosaic550,000

Newcastle’s demand for personalised gifts is the highest

Personalised items add an extra unique touch to handmade products.

Newcastle’s craft scene is booming – and this extends to searches for personalised gifts, with 312 searches per 100,000 people each month.

RankCitySearches per 100,000 people
1Newcastle312
2Birmingham299
3Bradford297
4Walsall285
5Manchester258

People look for handmade gifts at Christmas time

Christmas is a busy time for the handmade industry, with 15,600 searches for ‘Christmas handmade gifts’ in the past year. It’s a 40% increase from the year before.

Mother’s Day comes in second with over 5,000 searches for handmade gifts in the past year for this occasion, but searches are stable year on year.

RankEventUK searches in past yearY-o-Y change
1Christmas15,60040%
2Mother's Day5,7600%
3Father's Day4,680133%
4Birthday2,04021%
=4Wedding2,0400%
5Easter1,68023%

Most people start a handmade business to improve their mental health

A notable 38% of handmade businesses in the UK started as a result of Covid-19. But other benefits have kept the industry boom going post-pandemic.

Improving mental health and wellbeing is the top reason craft businesses are set up, with almost one in four (24%) of owners saying this was their motivation.

And it seems to work – 42% report a better work/life balance after starting their own handmade business. And 39% say their role as a business owner fulfils them.

Motivation% of handmade business owners that agree
To improve my mental health and wellbeing23.6%
To meet new people22.0%
To learn new skills21.2%
To spend time pursuing a hobby20.8%
To be my own boss19.2%

Time is the biggest challenge crafting businesses face

There’s no doubt running a handmade business is a labour of love. 17% of surveyed owners said the amount of time spent creating their products was their biggest challenge.

While handmade businesses trade in creativity, business skills are key. 42% of respondents have taken courses or training to develop their operational business knowledge since starting their business. And with 39% of respondents doing their own marketing and advertising, it’s clear successful business owners need more than crafting talent alone.

Biggest challenge% of handmade business owners that agree
Amount of time spent creating my products from start to finish17.2%
Competition from similar businesses15.2%
Uncertainty about the future14%
Setting a price for my products/services13.6%
Having a lack of business knowledge or skills13.6%
Securing funding13.6%
Marketing or advertising my business12.8%

Origami is the most affordable handmade side hustle to set up

A visually informative image displaying a statistical analysis of the top five most and least affordable handmade crafting businesses to set up in the United Kingdom. The image offers insights into the cost factors involved in establishing various crafting ventures, showcasing the varying affordability levels across different business types.

Overall, the mean cost of setting up a handmade crafting business in the UK is £564. But some businesses are more expensive to start than others.

Origami tops the list for the most affordable handmade business to set up according to our survey at £401. Batik (an Indonesian dyeing art), felting (compressing fibres) and enamelling (melting powdered glass onto metal) are also among the cheapest – all costing just over £400.

Meanwhile carpentry, lithography (printing using a stone or plate), and joinery (joining wood together) are the most expensive.

How handmade business owners manage their business finances

Managing finances is a challenge for handmade businesses. Only one third (33%) of business owners feel confident managing their business finances, and 36% regularly stay within their budgeting goals. Most handmade businesses didn’t make a profit within their first year of trading – and only 32% of new owners did.

Ultimately, nobody starts a business because they love financial admin.

‘I don’t have anyone to do all the things that a large business would have employees to do. And some of the time you don’t know what it is that you don’t know.”

Claire, jewellery designer and Monzo Business customer.

When you’re your own sales, marketing, and finance departments, you have less time than most. The last thing you want is to burn the midnight oil doing admin that should be automated.

Business owners of any kind just want it out the way, so they can get back to what matters most – actually running their business, or spending their free time with loved ones. If you’d like to find out more about the bank account we co-designed with customers, go to https://monzo.com/business/.

Methodology

To reveal the top UK cities for handmade businesses, we took the 50 most populated cities and ranked them on a total of five metrics relevant to crafting business. Within 10 miles of each city, the metrics analysed included:

  • The number of handmade Etsy products listed per 100,000 people

  • The number of handmade eBay listed products per 100,000 people

  • The number of craft courses per 100,000 people

  • The number of art and craft shops per 100,000 people

  • Annual Google search volumes for crafts per 100,000 people

To reveal the top crafting trends and cities and events for personalised gifts we analysed the average monthly search demand in the last 12 months. Alongside this, we used TikTok hashtags to find viewing numbers for each craft.

We then surveyed 250 owners of handmade crafting businesses in the UK over the age of 18.