A Craft Industry Analysis

The Craft and Hobby Association in 2011, released results of research into the U.S. Craft and Hobby Industry. You may be surprised to learn that the craft and hobbyist’s contribution towards this industries net worth is approximately $29 billion, double the $14 billion first reported by Craft Organization Directors Association (CODA) in 2001. A surprising figure to emerge from this research (even to us avid craft enthusiasts) is that over half of U.S. households acknowledged engaging in a craft activity at least once per year.

When we unpack that $29 billion net worth figure we get a clearer picture of who it is that loves their hobby. Woodworking was the front runners in the top 10 craft sectors by spend, coming in at $3.32 billion with 16.8 million individuals engaging in this activity. I myself have some lovely bookends purchased at a local Sunday market that have clearly been lovingly produced by one such woodworker.

Since the internet revolution every industry engages in analytics and who wouldn’t want to have a picture of their client base so savvy marketing campaigns can bring a little more of that dollar value into the business. And what an impressive dollar value it is. The artists among us, thought to be 21.1 million households, spent $2.6 billion on our passion. The jewelry making and beading craft accounted for $2.3 billion with 14.7 million people crafting earrings, necklaces, bracelets and broaches etc. Over 18 million households engaged in Scrapbooking and other paper crafts spending $3.3 billion preserving family memories and turning photos into family heirlooms. The crocheting hobby injected $1.062 billion into the industry via 17.4 million strong crochet fans. That’s a lot of towels getting topped.

Crafting wreaths, historically a symbol of strength, and in Christianity a celebration of the festive season, made it into one of the top 10 favorite craft activities with 11.6 million engaging in this activity. This is not a once a year only at Christmas craft as wreaths are also used as wedding headdress in many different cultures. Incidentally, wedding crafts injected $803 million into the U.S. craft economy.

With speculation that the global financial crisis is responsible for providing this boost for the craft industry Hobby Lobby’s Eileen Liffick attributed an increase of people attending craft shops or online craft sites looking for ways to create craft for their families without spending a lot of money due to the current economic conditions. Ms Liffick says that “not only are people saving money, they’re making it. We have many people selling these items making extra money”.

What was previously a much loved hobby is now a means of saving the family money. “People are looking to create something special, something homemade. They want to help others save money, while making a little extra for themself”. The fabric department’s business has at least doubled in the last three years because of the economy with people trending back to earlier times, making homemade items for themselves, as a gift, or for a fun family activity. Industry concentration has increased over the five years to 2011, as large national retailers take market share from small independent operators.

Despite the impact of large scale business successful craft businesses are popping up everywhere seeking to share in the crafting industries net worth of $29 million. Crafting is a convenient work from home business and respected cottage industry. Approximately 81.2% of total craft industry operators in Canada are estimated to be businesses without paid-employees (non-employers) in 2011.

It’s now easier than ever to publicize your business and get recognition without spending a fortune doing so using a variety of free and low cost tools and resources from marketing on the internet to craft shows and everything in between.

Craft shows bring resources and new techniques to the end user providing an unequalled opportunity to present craft and hobby ideas and products and services to this cashed up audience. The hobby and craft association reported attendee registration at one particular craft show up 40%. In the “buyer” category alone registration was up 48% for this same show planned for 2012 in Anaheim.

Craft Pavilions showcase what’s new in crafts reaching craft and hobby enthusiasts far and wide. Stall holders sell products in a popular, vibrant market place that attracts tens of thousands over the course of the event. The bonus to the community is far reaching as these tens of thousands of attendees require accommodation and spend money on food and drinks in the vicinity of the event.

Peartree Solutions produced a report on the profile of the Canadian craft industry (2003) highlighting that Canadian craft, recognized internationally for its quality and distinctive character, was at the time considered to be a growing and vibrant collection of individual craft persons, studios, enterprises, media guilds, public and private galleries, retail and wholesale shows, and organizations. The industry in 2001 had generated $727 million in economic activity which including over $100 million in exports.

At the time of this research there were approximately 14,048 craft studios operating in Canada, where 22,597 people were employed. Ten per cent of those surveyed had craft revenues in excess of $120,000. The net craft income (or earnings) of full time craft professionals averaged $17,300 in 2001, while the top ten per cent earned net income of $49,000 or more.

Southern hemisphere crafters are every bit as enthusiastic about their hobby. Australia has less than one fifth of the population of U.S. however managed to spend an estimated $250 million on art and craft materials in 2009-2010. These figures are not a true representation of the Australian craft industry however as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) define a hobby as an activity that was undertaken only for oneself or for family or friends, that is, the output was not for general consumption. If the item produced was to sell, then this would be considered a work involvement and not measured in the hobby category. The ABS survey showed that in 2007 there were 2.1 million people aged 15 years and over in Australia who were involved in Art and craft as a hobby activity.

Craft exhibitions, craft festivals, craft shows are an unequalled opportunity for crafters and retailers alike to show case their wares. “Handarbeit & Hobby” Exhibition (Cologne, Germany) was held in 2009. Thought to be the largest European exhibition of manufacturers of the goods for needlework and creativity, the exhibition attracted more than 200 craft product companies. Many companies from Mexico, Japan, Australia, the USA and other countries saw the financial benefits of crossing the globe to present their products and shore up a slice of the lucrative European craft market.

Prize money from craft competitions can be quite lucrative for the hobbyist. A winner of an award for embroidery in 2009 beat the pool of 24 finalists from 24 countries selected from 330 applicants to take home $10 000. Craft enthusiasts can compete with the best by entering craft competitions. A European quilting championship has been held annually, since competition commenced in 2002. Masters and designers of ceramics and porcelain from Canada, Russia, Spain and other countries were among the last biennale visitors to the British Ceramic biennale festival in 2009. A mosaic technique summit was organized by the Society of the American Mosaic Artists and coincided with 10th anniversary of this Society.

In a news release issued on April 14 2011, CHA Member Northridge Publishing (PROVO, Utah) announced the launch of a new craft industry trade publication “Creative Retailer,” The publication aims to provide retailers the very best in industry information and product awareness and canvas a wide variety of topics, provide project ideas and discuss solutions for common retail problems for craft retailers. The craft industry hopes that the introduction of a new trade publication is a signal that the industry has a positive future for retailers and craft enthusiast alike.

As former partners of Scrapbook Premier, Inc. and Scrapbook Business Magazine, Torrie and Kevin of Northridge Publishing will provide leading-edge programs and media support that will strengthen business practices for both vendor, manufacturers and retailers. Brian Kunz, founder and president of Northridge Publishing stated ‘”they are striving to expand the industry by building greater awareness to their many subscribers” (hundreds of new readers every month).

Craft industry statistics clearly show that with over half of U.S. households engaging in a craft activity, many, many people experience that unequaled feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating something beautiful. Nothing is as self-soothing as those stolen hours immersed in the craft you adore.

Pest Control Services Are Important To Your Business

Clearly homeowners will want to keep their homes free from pests for hygienic reasons. But when it is a business that has an infestation, it is a legal requirement as well. Once a rumour starts that there have been bugs and pests seen in a business, it will start to affect business and this will be even worse if the organisation is involved in food preparation. It is not only when pests are seen at the premises that problems arise, but also if anything gets sent out in a parcel.

Customers do not want to open a can or packet of food and find a carcass in it, nor do they want to open any package and find droppings or body parts. Not only will there be the need to refund and maybe compensate, but could also mean loss of repeat orders and the end of a great reputation. When a license is issued there are lots of commitments that have to be made and if they are not kept the license can be removed. In the worst cases there can also be large fines and even prison sentences.

It also has to be born in mind that many people will be afraid if pests. And it can mean hours of lost working time if people are not able to carry on with their job. Pests will be a major reason for licenses being revoked, and as a result it will be best to get rid of them as soon as possible and normally with the help of pest control experts. Irritating bites can be the least of the worries in some cases depending upon the type of pest that is involved. Serious illness is possible from some, and it is both humans and animals that can be affected.

Some people will think the best thing to do will be to wipe out the pests, but this could cause more problems than it solves. Most of them will play a part in the food chain and nature in general, so control is the best option. It is here that the expertise of pest controllers comes into play, as they will know what to do to solve the problem but not wipe out a species. Once the infestation has been dealt with there is still a role for the pest controller. They will be able to give advice regarding the best way to prevent the problem starting up again.

This will tend to be related to keeping the place clean and tidy, and not providing anything that the pests could survive on. They will take their services a step further and make routine inspections to see if they can find areas were standards have slipped or pests have breached the practices put in place. From time to time there will need to be the repeat of the actions that have prevented access to the pests. There will be no attempt to condemn a client by the company, but simply an attempt to help solve the problem and make sure it does not return.

How To Read A Credit Card Merchant Statement – 5 Ways To Categorize Fees

Reading your merchant statement and finding the rates and fees you’re being charged can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”. One reason is because there are nearly as many different statement formats as there are merchant acquiring companies. Also, because of how competitive the industry has become, many monthly statements don’t completely disclose the rates being charged. And sometimes they are completely hidden.

I know of banks that don’t even send a statement out. If a merchant wants details of what they paid they have to logon to an online account to find it.

It’s War Out There!

One reason for this is the competitiveness. You have to remember that credit and debit cards make up part of a 2 trillion dollar industry. Money is like a magnet – it attracts Most merchants are being contacted continually by competing processors trying to get them to switch processors, by promising “lower rates”, etc.

So, to prevent a sales agent from another processing company from taking a merchant away – some processors make it as hard as possible for a competitor’s sales rep to walk in to a business, analyze a merchant statement, and do an ‘apples for apples’ comparison.

That being said, there are still some basic keys to look for when reading your statement. Here’s what I look for in analyzing a merchant statement, in order:

  • One: The pricing structure – how has the account been set up? Which pricing model does it employ? Is it using tiers (e.g. 3-tier; 4-tier, etc.) or – is it using “Interchange Plus”? (NOTE: most merchants are on a tier pricing model, which, in my opinion guarantees they’re being overcharged. Also, there are other pricing structures but tier pricing is by far the most common)
  • Two: The monthly fees (sometimes called “Other”) – next, I look to see what the monthly fees are. This can include: a statement fee; monthly service fee; account maintenance fee (normally, you’d only see one of these although I’ve seen two – or, you may see the equivalent fee but using a different term); PCI fee; batch fee; and gateway or access fees. Any miscellaneous, but not monthly fees can also show up here – e.g., an annual fee or semi-quarterly.
  • Three: Processing Fees – this is where the discount rates will be listed. If you are on tier pricing the best statements will print an itemized list showing the “qualified”, “mid-qualified”, and “non-qualified” (the 3 tiers) rate. If you are on Interchange Plus, you’ll see a list showing all the different cards you took, followed by the actual interchange rate for the card, the “dpi” (discount per item), plus the processors mark-up expressed as basis points and a transaction fee (or per item, depending on the term used to list it).
  • Four: Authorization Fees – here’s where you’ll find fees that go to VISA and MC. They’ll show up listed as access, authorization, and /or WATTS fees. You could also find here AVS fees (address verification); assessment fees; brand usage fee; risk fee; settlement fees, IAS fee (Issuer Access & Settlement).
  • Five: Third Party Fees – 3rd parties means networks other than VISA & MC that are included in your statement. This would include American Express, Discover, and the debit networks if you are using pin debit

Part of the problem in reading a merchant statement is different processors use different category names and different terms to identify charges. That’s why I began by saying it can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?” While there are common terms used for certain fees there is also a wide variation used, depending on the acquirer (the company you signed a merchant agreement with).

Again, part of this is due to an attempt to hide what’s being charged and make it difficult for a competitor to analyze a statement. While that’s ‘somewhat’ understandable – in my opinion it’s a disservice to the merchant. Integrity demands transparency. Maybe if processors were more merchant oriented they’d have a lower turnover and would not have to worry about competition so much. At least that’s my opinion.

Nature Photography – Five Tips For Great Rainforest Photos

Rainforest photography, like all good nature photography, is more about your sensitivity to nature than about expensive equipment. Of course you need a decent camera, and you must know how to use it. But the quality of your photos does not depend on the price tag on your camera. As long as you have a tripod, and a camera that allows you to adjust the aperture and shutter speed, you are set to go.

I make my living from nature photography, including a lot of rainforest photos, and I have never relied on the latest equipment for my work. Great rainforest photography is simply about finding an eye-catching subject, in good light, and having a creative eye for composition.

Note: The following tips are for photos of rainforest scenes, not for close-up photos of leaves, fungus etc.

Rainforest Photography Tip # 1: Choose a subject. As they say in the classics, "It's a jungle out there." In the rainforest, you are confronted with foliage, branches, roots, rocks, vines … in your face and all around you. A really good rainforest photo requires structure, to make some visual sense of all that clutter. Look for something that is immediately eye-catching – a big tree that dominates the trees around it; A root system that leads the eye; A waterfall or stream; In short, something that you can build a composition around.

Rainforest Photography Tip # 2: Use the best natural light. The mistake almost everyone makes at first is to take their rainforest photos on a bright sunny day when they are in the mood for a walk. Wrong! In full sunlight, the rainforest becomes a patchwork of light and shade that is impossible to expose properly. What you need is a cloudy day, when the light is much more even. Misty weather adds even more atmosphere to the rainforest, and can add a mysterious character to your rainforest photo.

Do not use a flash. The flash illuminated the scene with flat, white light, eliminating the gentle play of natural light and shade that gives the rainforest its character. Always use the natural light.

Rainforest Photography Tip # 3: Carry a tripod. Taking your rainforest photo under a heavy tree canopy, on a cloudy day (see rainforest photography tip # 2), means the level of light will be very low. You may be shooting at shutter speeds as slow as one or two seconds. You will always need your tripod, and it is best to avoid windy days so that the scene is as still as possible.

Rainforest Photography Tip # 4: Use a wide-angle lens (or a zoom lens, zoomed back to its widest angle). The wide angle lens has several advantages for rainforest photography. Firstly, it exaggerates the sense of perspective in a photo, creating a sense of three dimensional depth. Viewers of your photo will feel like they are looking not just at a rainforest, but into it. Secondly, the wide-angle lens has a naturally wide depth of field. With so much detail all around you, it is important that you can keep both the foreground and the background in focus.

Rainforest Photography Tip # 5: Stay on the path. There are some practical reasons for staying on the path when bushwalking. You minimize the possibility of getting lost, injured, or fined by some over-officious park ranger. The people who run the national parks are not stupid. They know what you want to see, and design their trails accordingly. Sticking to the path will not rob you of any great photo opportunities.

In terms of rainforest photography, you are able to create some distance between you and the foliage around you. It is much easier to photograph a tree when you do not have the branch of another tree in your face. By staying on the path, you can get a clear view of your subject, without interference. You can even use the path as part of the composition in your rainforest photo. It is an excellent way of inviting the viewer to join you on your walk in the rainforest.

So there you have my five rainforest photography tips. Notice they concentrate on light and creativity, not on fancy techniques or equipment. You can make great improvements in all your nature photography this way, regardless of what type of camera you have.